In a bid to elevate Indian football to international prominence, former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, emphasized the critical importance of equipping young players with top-notch technical skills before the age of 15. Wenger, currently in India with his team from the FIFA Talent Development Scheme, expressed these insights during a three-day visit in connection with the upcoming AIFF-FIFA Academy inauguration in Bhubaneswar.
Arsene Wenger, known for his illustrious coaching career and contribution to football development globally, underscored the significance of starting early with technical training. “Football is a technical sport. We have to equip the players from five to 15 with the best possible capacity to be technically at the top. That means, basically, to make it simple, is to make the ball his friend. The rest can be developed later. And this is absolutely vital,” Wenger emphasized.
Drawing parallels with Japan’s football development, Wenger highlighted the impact of early investment in technical skills. “I was in Japan at the start of their football in 1995. In 1998, they were at the World Cup. So that means it is possible. You have to start early,” he explained. This example serves as a testament to the potential rapid progress a footballing nation can achieve through early and strategic development programs.
During his visit, Wenger engaged with heads of select football academies across India at the Football House, emphasizing the untapped potential in the country. He referred to India as a “gold mine” of football talent that needs exploration and encouragement to bring the nation onto the global football map.
Wenger’s vision for Indian football extends beyond just technical training; he envisions India playing a more significant role on the world stage. “My main target here is to convince people that there is a gold mine here, but at the moment it is not completely explored, exploited, and encouraged,” Wenger asserted.
Expressing optimism about India’s football capabilities, Wenger believes the country possesses significant assets and qualities that can contribute to its success in the sport. Despite the Indian team never having participated in the FIFA World Cup, Wenger sees immense potential and resources that can be harnessed for rapid development.
“I believe you have huge assets and fantastic qualities that make me very optimistic about what you can do here. It is absolutely fantastic to have that opportunity. And with my team, we are really highly motivated to help this country develop in the game. I’m convinced that it’s possible in the very short term,” Wenger affirmed.
As India looks to make a mark on the global football stage, Wenger’s insights and commitment to fostering talent provide a beacon of hope for the nation’s footballing future. The AIFF-FIFA Academy inauguration in Bhubaneswar is set to be a pivotal moment, aligning with Wenger’s vision for India’s footballing success.