Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said on Monday that India must focus on equipping upcoming players with the best possible technical skills before they turn 15 as a possible means to find their place on the global football map.
“What will football be like in 2030? How can we imagine what our needed quality is in 2030? But what is for sure, is where we start with technique,” Wenger said. “Football is a technical sport. We have to equip the players from five to 15 with the best possible capacity to be technically at the top. That means, basically, to make it simple, is to make the ball his friend. The rest can be developed later. And this is absolutely vital.”
Wenger cited the example of Japan, where he had been a coach with Nagoya Grampus before his move to Arsenal. “I was in Japan at the start of their football in 1995. In 1998, they were at the World Cup. So that means it is possible. You have to start early,” he said.
Wenger and his team from the FIFA Talent Development Scheme are currently on a three-day visit to India in connection with the AIFF-FIFA Academy to be inaugurated in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday.
The AIFF said Wenger visited the Football House on Monday and had an interaction with the heads of a select group of football academies from across the country.
Wenger said there is a “gold mine” of football talent in India that needs to be tapped so that the country can play a more significant role on the world stage.
“My target is to improve football in the world. And it is impossible that a country like India, 1.4 billion, is not on the football world map,” the 74-year-old said. “My main target here is to convince people that there is a gold mine here, but at the moment it is not completely explored, exploited, and encouraged.”
Wenger, who once oversaw an unbeaten Premier League season for Arsenal during a glittering coaching career, said that India has the resources to make it work. The Indian team have never participated in the history of the Fifa World Cup.
“I believe you have huge assets, and fantastic qualities that make me very optimistic about what you can do here. It is absolutely fantastic to have that opportunity. And with my team, we are really highly motivated to help this country develop in the game. I’m convinced that it’s possible in the very short term.”