How can football players in the country bridge the gap in skill-sets, that is currently hampering the country’s fortunes at the international level? Play futsal, says former international referee Michael Andrews.
Andrews, who recently finished a stint as the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) referees’ education administrator in their Vision Asia project, is in the city as Goal 2013’s official match commissioner. He believes that the indoor five-a-side version of the game might play a role in producing more skilful football players.
“I had to frequently travel to countries like Iran, where they use futsal effectively to coach young kids. Futsal is safer, faster and more interesting for the children, and they learn all the necessary skills properly. In a country like India, where proper football infrastructure is yet to be developed, futsal will be effective. It might not be realistic to insist that every school here should have a football ground, but it does not take much for them to have a futsal court,” he said.
He also believes that football in the country would improve drastically, if it were marketed properly. “I believe that is why we are very good at cricket. Cricket administrators have been able to market the game effectively and whip up interest both among the public and sponsors. If we succeed in doing that with football, then the game here will grow in leaps and bounds,” he said.
Football authorities in the country must also learn from the way, their cricketing counterparts are planning for the development of the game. “Currently planning is not a big part of Indian football and we do not have a fixed calendar of events. If we can draft a plan for the future of Indian football and identify a few dedicated people who are willing to work for its execution, then India can emerge as a major force in world football,” he said.
Andrews was also all praise for the talent at display in Goal 2013. “We have already seen half the teams participating in the tournament. All of them have some genuinely exciting players. I think that if a national-level scout were to come and assess the talent on display, then he will find at least 10-20 players, who if properly developed, have big future ahead of them,” he said.
Andrews, who became an AFC Elite referees’ assessor after he retired from active refereeing, has officiated in some major events like the pre-World Cup, pre-Olympics, Asian Club Championships, Asian Cup and the Sahara Cup.