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'We are trying to make India a football country'

Last updated on: February 08, 2014 13:29 IST

'We are trying to make India a football country'

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Laxmi Negi

'We can see kids wearing a Barcelona or Spain jersey. I want to see them wearing a Pune Football Club or Dempo jersey.'

The All India Football Federation's Technical Director Scott O'Donnell tells Rediff.com's Laxmi Negi about his plans for Indian soccer.

Scott O'Donnell, the All India Football Federation's technical director, is enjoying the fruits of the grassroots programme he insisted on when he came to the country over three years ago.

The Australian, who started off at the AIFF as an academy instructor in 2011, quickly impressed federation bosses and was elevated to the role of Director, Coach Education in India.

Today, the 46 year old trains coaches at the AIFF's academies and helps them spot talent.

In a freewheeling chat with Rediff.com's Laxmi Negi, O'Donnell reveals his mission to make India a football powerhouse.

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Image: Scott O'Donnell with school children.
Photographs: AIFF Media

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Laxmi Negi

You have been in India for the last three years. Do you see any change in India's football?

We have five academies where boys are training full time. We have Indian coaches working with them.

The AIFF has a grassroots programme going into six decks now.

I cannot say Indian football has changed, but all these things add to a positive change.

You emphasise a lot on grassroots. Are you satisfied with the progress at that level?

We are not going to see the benefits of the academies and the grassroots programmes for 10 to 15 years.

If we get players from the 6 to 12 years age group, the state bodies will have a data base of the players.

It allows us to register players so that we can identify the talented ones. The states will know their best players because they would have gone through the grassroots programme.

Are you satisfied with the regional academies' performance?

There is always room for improvement. Things could always be better, but, for now, I am satisfied.

Certainly, there are winds of change blowing in Indian football...

India has lagged behind, and what we are doing now is what all the countries have done years ago.

Right now we are just trying to keep pace.

We need to convince people that the future of Indian football is the grassroots boys.

There will be a bigger talent pool which will identify the best through the system.

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Image: Scott O'Donnell with AIFF's Navi Mumbai Regional Academy Head Coach Sajid Dar.
Photographs: AIFF Media

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Laxmi Negi

How is the preparation going on for the Under-17 World Cup in 2017?

We are toying with some ideas and will be meeting up with Technical Director Rob Baan, (AIFF) General Secretary Kushal Das and national team coach Wim Koevermans next week.

We do not want to rush into anything. The priority will be to give more competition for this age group (players born in 2000 and after). Also, they should have more exposure tours in the coming years.

Will the under-13 players from the Goa academy be part of the probables for the Under-17 World Cup?

Not a single player of any of the academies is permanent.

The current under-13 players were chosen from the National Championship two years ago.

We can say they are the pick of the players right now. We have our scouts everywhere and there is always space for more players.

India is such a huge country and it gets difficult to go to every part of this country.

We need to make sure that our scouting network does a good job.

Can you vouch that the boys in your academies are no age cheats?

All the boys in our academies have gone through tests according to FIFA and AFC guidelines. We are very strict on that.

There are no foolproof methods on age cheating, but I am confident that all the players of our academies have passed the FIFA test and have age proof too. There is nothing more we can do besides that.

I am dead against cheating and I would not want to win if we have overage players.

We are doing everything we can to stop age fudging. We have full support from the AIFF.

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Image: Indian football coach Wim Koevermans, left.
Photographs: AIFF Media

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Laxmi Negi

Is a berth in the 2022 World Cup in sight?

That is a big ask. Let's just stick to the 2017 World Cup and see where we go.

How does one promote football in this cricket-crazy country?

We are trying to make India a football country.

We can see kids wearing a Barcelona or Spain jersey. I want to see them wearing a Pune Football Club or Dempo jersey.

We need to make them realise their dreams of playing for local football clubs and then eventually go overseas.

The I-League this season is the best I have seen. The youth development is also heading in a positive direction.

I think the future is bright!


Image: In the background: Scott O'Donnell with AIFF's Navi Mumbai Regional Academy Manager Shailesh Karkera,right
Photographs: AIFF Media

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