New Delhi: Indian football legend I.M. Vijayan feels that a good show in the upcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup will benefit the country immensely and will play a pivotal role in developing and raising the bar for footballers in India.
Considered to be the country’s deadliest striking weapon, Vijayan represented India in 79 international matches and netted 40 goals, in a career that spanned over 15 years.
Impressed with the potential and hard-work of the young colts, the 48-year-old former striker is optimistic that the host nation can cause few upsets and that the players have it in them to make other teams run for their money.
“I am pretty optimistic about a good show. We are the host nation and our players have gained confidence following their showings in the preparatory events,” Vijayan told the Press Trust of India.
Talking about the Indian players who will be the first Indian team to play in a football World Cup he also added, “I have seen them train before and they really impressed me. I can say that they have it in them to produce a creditable performance in the World Cup.”
India have been placed in Group A along with two time champions Ghana, USA and Colombia and will face USA in their opening match of the tournament on October 6.
The 2013 Arjuna awardee is one of the very few Indian players to have represented both the Kolkata Giants, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in national football leagues.
Fondly called ‘Kalo Hiran’ (Black Buck) Vijayan also said that he is glad that Indian football have finally moved on from amaeturism to professionalism, for the betterment of the game in the country.
“I think what has caught my attention is the switch to professionalism. Gone are the days when we would be carrying water bottles from our room into the SAI centre in Bangalore for our camp,” he said about the changes that he has witnessed in Indian football.
Talking of his playing days when things were not as smooth as now he also added, “Back then, after a match we would be asked if we are injured. But now, you have so many doctors, physios, coaches to look after the players. They are made to go through screenings before a match to assess their fitness.”
The infrastructure in almost all the stadiums have been upgraded to world class levels and with so much developmental work happening all around, Vijayan who is one of the two national observers of football in the country, believes that at present nothing but only good things about Indian football can be written to the government.
The growing structure of football at such rapid pace in the country has raised a few eyebrows, who believes that football will soon take over cricket as the most followed sport in India.
However, the former Indian international thinks differently. According to him, “Both has its own space. And moreover, both are our national teams and we should cheer for both.”
“So, one should not compare between the two sports,” he concluded.