'India did well in going dutch'

PTI

Gullit congratulated India for accepting Dutch support in developing football in the country. Amitabha Das Sharma speaks to the legend.

Ruud Gullit still possesses the fervid gusto of a conquistador that was the hallmark of his presence on the football field. The man seemed to have jumped out of the posters that adorned the walls of the football aficionados of the 1980s and 90s, as he professed the pre-eminence of the Dutch philosophy of ‘total football’, on a short visit to Kolkata on June 29.

Having forsaken his trademark dreadlocks with the consummation of a brilliant playing career, Gullit in his new avatar as manager and commentator sports a finely pruned hairstyle. “If nobody cuts his hair the barber shop has no job,” quipped the once flamboyant Dutchman when quizzed about the reason for losing his mane. “At the end of my football career, I was looking to have my life back. People would always recognise me by my hair so I wanted to change it. I’m happy with it. It’s much easier to maintain,” Gullit added.

But when it came to the topic of world football, Gullit turned a serious ambassador of ‘total football’, the best version of which he and his team had orchestrated in bringing Holland its only European Championship crown in 1988. The former Holland captain spoke of the necessity of having a philosophy that would propel the development of the sport. Dwelling on the essence of fluidity of the system — developed by noted coach Rinus Michels — that shunned the rigidity of fixed positions, Gullit said the concept of ‘total football’ will continue to rule the progress of the game in future.

Gullit, who won the European player of the year in 1987, just before helping his country win the EURO 1988, congratulated India for accepting Dutch support in developing football in the country. “I think Indian football is in good hands. The Dutch philosophy believes in a 4-3-3 system that stresses on the use of the flanks. So when you play with a different formation later on it is always easier to adapt.

"I am proud that the Indians, too, have adopted our system,” Gullit said. Dutchmen Rob Baan and Wim Koevermans hold key positions in Indian football as the technical director and national team coach, respectively.

Stressing on systematic youth development, the former Dutch star broke many notions that seemed to dog grass-root development in India. “It is always wise to begin in a graded manner. Like when you are seven or eight years old, you start with five-a-side game, then you go to seven and nine and finally to 11-a-side format,” Gullit said.

The former Chelsea and Newcastle United manager said the development process gets misdirected if there is insistence on the development of skills alone. “The development programmes should aim at helping the kids read and understand the game in the right way. Developing skills or tricks are secondary,” Gullit emphasised.

Pointing out the success of Spain — which is dominating world football — Gullit said it is ‘total football’ at its best. “Spain deservedly won all those trophies. They play excellent football, we love to watch that. The good thing is that they play attacking football,” he added.

Even as he applauded the great achievement of Spain, he reminded that the game does not stop with the success of one team. “When Brazil was playing so well in the 60s and 70s, everyone said there’s never going to be a team that plays better football. Luckily for us, that’s not been the case. Hopefully there will be a new team which will do better than the Spaniards,” he said.

Gullit also showed great composure and insight when it came to the disturbing issue of racism. Having been a target himself of the menace during his playing days, Gullit, who is of Surinamese descent, said, “It can’t be solved by only handing out bans.”

The issue needs to be addressed at government level, he felt. “It is not a football problem. It’s a social problem. With the economic crisis in Europe, people need a scapegoat and they put it on the minorities,” Gullit said.