Slamming the All India Football Federation (AIFF) squarely for the declining standards of football in the country, former Iranian international Jamshed Nassiri on Friday asked AIFF to put its house in order with better governance for the standard to rise.
"Upto the 1980s Indian football performed well in Asia. In 1976 India and Iran, which was represented by my friend Majid Bhaskar, finished joint first in the Asian Youth Cup and next year both were semi-finalists. Those days AIFF was run by people who were interested in keeping the standards of the game high," Nassiri said at a panel discussion in Mumbai on Friday.
"I have made India my country for the last thirty years and have gone to small villages and seen there is lot of talent everywhere. The need is to spot the talent, nurture it, groom it and improve the football infrastructure. This is where AIFF has failed," said the Kolkata-based Nassiri.
"There were so many tournaments in those days -- the Stafford Cup in Bangalore, the Sait Nagjee in Kerala, the Bordoloi Trophy in north east and the DCM in Delhi," he pointed out.
Nassiri was among several former footballers who were honoured on Friday after the glittering Barclays Premier League trophy was unveiled.
Former India skipper I M Vijayan was of the opinion that there was lot of young talent in India but said only one national-level academy -- run by the house of Tatas -- was not enough and asked for many more big football academies to be set up.
Churchill Brothers football club owner Churchill Alemao also criticised the AIFF for the way it pick players for the national team.
"They pick four players from Churchill, five from Dempo and so on to make the national team. This won't work. The way forward to build a strong team and make it qualify for the World Cup is to pick 200-odd boys between 13-18 years and train them," he said.
Former goalkeeper Bhaskar Maity felt that the only way for the sport to progress in India was to make it attractive as a career option by offering big amount of money to interested youngsters.
"You need to attract parents first by offering sports as a career option to their children. They have to be convinced that their children can make a living out of sports. Otherwise they would prefer their children to become engineers, doctors, lawyers etc," he said.
Other former players who were honoured included Bernard Pereira, Godfrey Pereira, Akheel Ansari, Kiron Khongsei, Ilyas Pasha, Sanath Seth and Jo Paul Ancheri.