Professional football in India warrants greater encouragement from corporate houses in order to fully tap the country's talent in the sport, says Ghana-born striker Yakubu Yusif, who emerged the highest goal-scorer of the seventh National Football League, which concluded on Monday.
"There is enough potential in India, but what is needed is proper encouragement," the 28-year-old Churchill Brothers striker, who also finished top-scorer in the NFL the previous year, said.
Yakubu surpassed his last year's tally of 18, scoring 21 goals in the current edition, and bagged Rs 50,000 for the feat.
"It is a great achievement to emerge first in the league for the second time in a row," he declared.
Yakubu's feat this season is studded with two hat-tricks, one against Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and the other against Indian Telephone Industries.
But even as he praises Churchill Brothers' coach Marcus Pacheco and his team mates for their sincerity and tenacity, he won't celebrate his achievement. That's because his team slid to fifth in the league from the second spot it finished in last year.
"But for their encouragement and cooperation, I would not have achieved this feat," he said.
About future plans, Yakubu says he is yet to make a decision.
"I am getting offers from clubs in Germany, London and Egypt but I have not yet decided."
Not that he is keen to leave India.
"I am willing to continue playing for Churchill Brothers, but it depends whether they want my services or not. As for myself, Churchill Brothers has been like my family and I will play as long as they want me."
It was India defender Mahesh Gawli, who had been to Ghana, who introduced Yakubu to Indian soccer in 1999.
Yakubu considers the goal he scored against Salgaocar this season his best.
"It was when there was only a 50:50 chance... when Rajesh Meetei gave me the pass. I took the ball on the chest and scored."
He confesses that he has the habit of "dreaming in the middle of the field" during a match, something he considers a "great weakness".
"I want to overcome this as it could prove disastrous... disturbing my concentration."
Yakubu hails from a footballing family and has two of his four brothers involved in the game. While one is a coach, the other plays for a local club back home.
"Being the youngest, I am very dear to all (including five sisters) in the family."
France is his favourite country in soccer, but the game "is losing its credit there for reasons not known", he says.
He says he owes a lot to his sponsors -- a Goa-settled German couple, Werner and Kernofa.
"They came to my rescue when I needed friends and finance. I am very grateful to them for their help... I can never forget their help."
The top goal-scorers in the history of the high-profile NFL:
2002-03: Yakubu Yusif (Churchill Brothers) 21 goals
2001-02: Yakubu Yusif (Churchill Brothers) 18 goals
2000-01: Jose Barreto (Mohun Bagan) 14 goals
1999-00: Igor Shkuyrin (Mohun Bagan) 14 goals
1998-99: Philip Mensah (Churchill Brothers) 11 goals
1997-98: Raman Vijayan (FC Kochin) 10 goals
1996-97: Baichung Bhutia (JCT Mills) 14 goals.