It has been more than a year that Lionel Messi came to India to play in an Exhibition Match. But if Prayag United Coach Eelco Schattorie is to be believed, there is a Lionel Messi in India too. "We need to discover him," he says. Presently in Bangalore to have a look at the 2nd Division League, Eelco, in an exclusive interview to www.the-aiff.com, spoke at length on the season so far, importance of Grassroots and YDP, the Dutch influence in Indian football and much more.
How do you look back at your first season with an Indian club?
When I took over, I wanted to win the I-League. No matter what, that stayed the aim. But things did not fall into place, and that's part of life. You have to live with it. I wouldn't say I am utterly disappointed with the way we faired. We had our moments too. It started off brilliantly with a 10-1 win (against United Sikkim). Then six of our players played for the National Team. That was incredible.
There were times when our right wing had virtually no one. Carlos (Hernandez) was on and off on the field. So it was a mixed season for us. The main aim though stays unfulfilled.
But you did win the IFA Shield!
We did. It was important for the players. But personally, I don't take much pride in winning the IFA Shield. I feel these are the tournaments the U-23 boys of the club should take part in. The senior team can't play all Tournaments in one season.
Look at East Bengal for instance. I feel it is because of the IFA Shield that they lost out on the title race of the I-League. Competitions like the Shield, the Calcutta Football League should be played by your B team. This will also develop your squad. I rate the I-League the highest.
What has been your assessment of Indian footballers in general?
I strongly believe and am 100 % sure that in a country as vast as India, with a population of 1.2 billion, there is a Lionel Messi in India as well. I am not joking. I'm sure there is one playing somewhere or the other. We just need to discover him.
There is a certain amount of desire and love for the game in India. Talent needs to be spotted from a very young age, given the right kind of infrastructure. I am sure the face of Indian football can change.
But for that, the mindset needs to change. You need to rope in more people, decision makers from the football world, like Rob (Baan) and Wim (Koevermans). Let them have the full liberty. At Bayern Munich, the entire administrative hierarchy has people who have played the sport at some point of time. In India, it will take time. Taj Mahal was not built in one day.
How much important is YDP and infrastructure for the development of the sport?
I hail from a country where Youth Development gets a lot of priority. In The Netherlands, the main aim of every club is to develop the youth. Grassroots Development is of paramount importance. The age groups teams play every weekend and don't just warm the benches.
I strongly believe in Johan Cryuff's philosophy that 60 % of a club's players should be home grown. The rest 40 % can be from outside. Sadly that isn't the case in the leading Leagues of the World. For that to happen you need a sound Grassroots Programme in place, YDP. Bayern Munich is a good example.
I would like to point out here that the AIFF is doing the right thing by making it mandatory for a club to have the proper infrastructure -- like your own Stadium, an Academy. Under Rob Baan who is vastly experienced, I hope things are going in the right direction.
What's your take on the Indian National Team under Wim Koevermans?
For Wim to deliver the goods, you need to give him time. Let him know the players. When he took over, many players were already stars in their own right, playing for India for a very long time. He had to work with them. He did not get to see the new crop.
At Prayag, I had 36 players to choose from. Each player needs to play. Spend time on the pitch. For that to happen you need to have a B team playing every weekend. It happens across Europe.
(Image courtesy: AIFF Media)