Baichung Bhutia, the former Indian football captain, has said that he believes that within the next ten to fifteen years, the Indian football team has the potential to be one of the top 10 teams in Asia.
Bhutia made a point of noting that this could be actualized if the younger teams are developed as they should be, placing a large emphasis on the youth. He is realistic in looking at the state of football in India today, and the potential that can come out of concentrating on game development from a young age.
He said: “Through the under-15, under-17, we are going to develop so that within the next 10 to 15 years we can be in one of the top 10 teams in Asia. Let’s not talk about the World Cup and be unrealistic. We are now spending on the youth, at the moment we should give strong support, money to grassroot development.”
India had taken a beating in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, losing five of its six matches. However, Bhutia felt that the team not only went in without enough preparation, they were also placed in a difficult group. Since then, the Indian football team has gone on to win the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Cup.
Bhutia feels that for football to grow stronger in India, it is important that the national team is seen to do well, thereby encouraging support of the game. He said that if the national team does not do well, even good initiatives such as the Indian Super League (ISL) will not have the impact they need to have to bring in the best players.
While Bhutia did not have much good to say regarding the I-League, he feels that the ISL has already been seen to have a positive impact on football in India since more children have begun to play football since the ISL was seen by parents and children alike.