Kolkata’s Swansea connection

Swansea City FC defender Neil Taylor talks to the junior footballers of the Kolkata Goalz project at the East Bengal club in Kolkata recently.-S. PATRONOBISH

The Swansea defender Neil Taylor’s recent visit to his mother’s hometown — Kolkata — was something that would profit the heightening aspirations of Indian football, writes Amitabha Das Sharma.

Neil Taylor’s recent visit to his mother’s hometown — Kolkata — was something that would profit the heightening aspirations of Indian football. The Swansea City FC defender spoke about the possibilities that sport in the country is waking up to.

The Welshman sounded ecstatic about making a return to the city to which he had made repeated visits as a child. He also gave unsparing approbation to the developmental activities with regard to football, which he said was a “discovery” he made on this trip.

The player was responding to an invitation from British Council, which organises a community development programme called Kolkata Goalz. Saying that he has been following Indian football for quite some time, Neil felt that a franchise-based tournament projected by the All India Football Federation will give some benefits especially when it seeks to involve former world stars and on spending big on marketing the sport.

“It will be a massive step if the tournament is done in the proper way. It will help the sport grow in a big way,” Taylor said. The Swansea City left-back, who is arguably the most noticeable among the players with an Indian connection currently playing in a top world league like the English Premier League, was upbeat about the way Indian football is looking to match up to world standards.

Playing for a side that is looking for growth and permanence as the first club from Wales in the EPL, Taylor said Swansea City has shown the right balance of growth and development. With the European clubs set to be brought under a rule where they cannot have budget deficits, Taylor said the Swansea model is the best suited for the purpose. “Swansea is the best model. We do not spend more than what we have,” Taylor said. “We look out for players who are really hungry from the lower leagues and develop them. I think this is the right model to follow,” he said, putting the issue into perspective. Taylor said the signing of the Spanish striker Michu is a good example of his club’s philosophy. “We got him (Michu) for something around 2 million (Pounds) and gave him a platform to showcase his talent. I have seen in training how good a talent he is,” said Taylor who is making a return to football after missing out eight months with an ankle injury.

The player had some interesting things to say on the scourge of racism in football. “This is a situation that needs to be dealt with firmly. Things are better now than what it used to be during the 70s, 80s, or the 90s. The situation is getting better with every year, but it will take some time to get eradicated,” said Taylor, who remembered playing cricket and Holi with his relatives in Kolkata and in Delhi. “To wipe it (racism) off completely, you need to pass on the values to the children. The teachers and parents will have to play a big role to make this happen,” added Taylor, who became the Club Ambassador of the Year in EPL last season for his community work.

The left-back who idolises the Brazilian star Roberto Carlos said it is more about skill and ability rather than size and build that makes a good footballer. “(Lionel) Messi has shown that players of his size can really be the best in the business.” Taylor, the defender, also had this to say about his favourite attacker, “Neymar is a brilliantly skilful player and the toughest attacker I have seen. He is a player who can play well in every level.”