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Invest in grooming coaches to develop Indian football: Man City star Paul Dickov

Sayan Mukherjee

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Paul Dickov says India are on the right track as a footballing nation.

New Delhi: India should invest in grooming coaches who would impart modern day knowledge to budding footballers during their nascent stage, former Manchester City forward Paul Dickov said.

India’s growth trajectory in football is slow and for swifter results the country should improve its infrastructure and focus on developing age-based groups.

“Coaching has got to be right from a very young age, getting the facilities right is also very important. India’s vast population and passion for football should also, hopefully, help the national team do well,” Paul told Sports Lounge in an exclusive chat during the announcement of Man City’s global multi-year partnership with premier smartphone brand TECNO mobile here.

“Children should get the chance to train under capable coaches. India also needs to concentrate on picking the right talent for their age-group categories,” he added.

The 46-year-old noted that with limited facilities India have shown potential to grow and rather than immediate results the country should be patient, setting realistic goals.

“India needs to be patient. They should be prepared to take one step forward and expect to take two steps back. Not just in India, but many Asian countries, when it comes to progress in football, expect to achieve everything now without necessarily putting in the hard work to get there first,” he opined.

Dickov has travelled to India several times in the last two years for Man City’s promotional activities and has noticed an improvement in fan engagement and general enthusiasm regarding the sport in the country. He kicked off a new health and fitness challenge named TECNO Race to Manchester City, which will see 40,000 Indian fans race around the world to Manchester.

“It’s getting bigger and bigger. Everytime I come here I see improvement. The national team is getting better. We have all seen that recently. But you can’t expect the national team to do well unless proper care is taken at the grassroots,” the Scot said.

Dickov had a distinguished career in the English Premier League from 1990 to 2011 for clubs like Arsenal, Man City, Leicester City, and Leeds United. He believes that the EPL champions Man City, under chief coach Pep Guardiola, are poised for an even bigger trophy haul after winning four trophies last season.

City won their second straight EPL title (their fourth in seven years), FA Cup title, EFL cup and FA Community Shield last season but crashed out in the Champions League quarterfinals.

“I think they are going to get better and better all the time. The average age of the squad is around 25 years. You look at Ederson, (Aymeric) Laporte, (John) Stones, (Benjamin) Mendy, Bernardo Silva, (Leroy) Sane, Raheem (Sterling), Gabriel Jesus—they are winning things and creating records at such a young age. They can only move forward during the next four, five, six years.

“I can see them going on and creating more records from here on. When you look at what they have won already at that young age and what they could go on to do, they are only going to get better. Champions League will be in their sights this year, I guess because they want to win everything,” the former Arsenal striker said.

Sayan Mukherjee is the Content Head at Sports Lounge. He has over 10 years of experience in sports journalism (print and digital) having worked for some of the leading media organisations in the country including The Statesman, The Asian Age, IANS and Sports Illustrated.