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“We need grassroots-level training”

Gouramangi Singh made his debut for India way back in 2006. Capped 71 times by the national team, the young Manipuri, a product of  the Tata Football Academy, plied his trade  in the National Football League, then in the re-branded I-League, and now plays in the Indian Super League (ISL) for Pune City FC. The 29-year-old spoke about this transition, and the role of ISL in shaping India’s football future. Excerpts:

This is your second year in the ISL. How different have the experiences been as compared to your I-League days?

I don’t think we can compare the two. We can’t forget the contribution the I-League has made. I would say, without the I-League there wouldn’t be ISL. Indian football is in transition. One can’t completely depend on the ISL to turn things around overnight. There are lots of positives though. I-League has its limitations budget-wise. There are financial restrictions. It is not as big as what we are seeing today [ISL].

But the ISL has brought in foreign players, and coaches with different styles.  In that sense, how has the on-field game evolved?

Technically better. In I-League too we had foreigners. But in ISL, the atmosphere is completely different. Most of them have played at the highest level and their match-awareness is more. So is the tempo of the game. This kind of exposure wasn’t there before. But we [Indians] are not very far behind. We can definitely do well. But we don’t have the necessary structures in place. We need more grassroots-level training.

For a young Indian player, how beneficial can the ISL be?

I’ll tell you from my own experience. I have been to countries like Australia, Denmark, Ukraine. There, I had to train like a foreigner. I mean, I had to adapt to their culture. Now, everything is coming to our country. Our players need not feel lonely here. It’s a good opportunity and the younger generation should take it seriously.

Can you give a realistic time-frame for things to improve?

At least another two years [for some signs to emerge].

What has been the biggest takeaway for you from the ISL?

I am from the Northeast. I never expected to go to Mumbai, Chennai and even Pune — not so popular for football — and see 30,000 people come and watch us play. We never experienced this before. Bringing the crowds back to the stadium has been the biggest thing and the attendance is increasing day by day. Nobody wants to play in empty stadiums. I feel this is only the beginning [of better things to come].

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 1:59:16 AM |

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