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A top author explains why India should never bid for the football world cup

By June 19, 2018No Comments

Source : ET Online

How can India achieve football glory? Not by building world-class football stadiums. That’s the counter-intuitive suggestion from Simon Kuper, who has co-authored the widely acclaimed book Soccernomics with economist Stefan Szymanski. The book is full of such counter-intuitive analysis. Talking to TOI, Kuper explained why India could not become a football achiever and how it can.

Why India should not bid for the world cup
Kuper says India does not have any world-class sporting stadiums yet. And he see no point in building them. He says India would be left with lots of white elephants afterwards, like South Africa was after 2010 World Cup. According to Kuper, World Cup is not a viable economic or sporting proposition. The better option for India is to spend the money instead on building cheap simple all-weather fields for kids.

Why India should focus less on the national team
Kuper says if India wants to win in the world cup, it needs to focus on the grassroots more than on the national team. “There isn’t much point in paying huge salaries to big-name foreign coaches to coach your national team, as China did with Marcello Lippi. By the time players are working with him, they are already in their twenties and almost fully formed. Nor do you need a strong domestic league to have a good national team. In fact, India and China will improve once their best players start leaving young to play in the world’s strongest leagues — that’s where they will get better, not playing at home.”

Why focus on kids is important
Kuper says the main secret to success of even quite small western European countries like Portugal and Iceland is their focus on children. His advice for India is to get kids in huge numbers playing football in fields near their homes, with qualified coaches, passing on the best cutting-edge western European knowledge, and then wait to see who turns out to be good.

Why invest in healthcare and tackle pollution 
Kuper says good healthcare is another must for excellence in football. If a large chunk of India’s population is not in good enough health, India can’t expect to produce top-class athletes.
“India and China simply don’t have enough fields for kids to play football on. And given that Indian cities are some of the most polluted on earth, how can you expect kids growing up there to become footballers?” he says.

Why import desi talent from Europe
India does not share border with any soccer superpower, a condition Kuper lays for global success in his book Soccernomics. He suggests India could form a team from its European diaspora for better performance in the world cup. Kuper says it’s working for Morocco which has a starting XI made up of players probably entirely European-born. “Algeria shone in 2014 with a squad that was three-quarters European-born. Having just seen Saudi Arabia play, I would suspect that with a mostly UK-born Indian diaspora team you’d have a very good shot at qualifying from Asia, given how weak the competition is there. True, UK isn’t the perfect place to draw your footballing diaspora from — in an ideal world there’d be millions of German-raised Indian kids — but in football terms it’s better than any other Asian country for now,” he says.

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