An ecstatic Rhian Brewster was airborne. He was close to the fence gesticulating at the English supporters. I could see the well sculpted powerful lower limbs of his. The robust stature makes you wonder if you are really watching an u-17 boy or a fully grown man. There were frequent ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ in the stand – if at all our boys could be like Brewster.
Sol Campbell, the FIFA Technical Head had a dismal view on Indian football – that we are 50-100 years behind. Hovering around 100 in the rankings, are we 100 years behind both in physique and skill? Your guess is as good as mine.
Seeing Brazil, England, Mali, Spain from close proximity, let me say that the gene they inherit gives them a head start. Long and strong bones and robust stature is typical of the Europeans.
The Africans on top of the strong bones, have that great lean muscular look. They are born like that. These gifted physiques are moulded into running machines by their scientific youth development programme.
Long back in the 80’s P.K. Banerjee, the then coach of the Indian team chose two tall and strong defenders called Franis Benny and Mastan Ahmed ahead of some quality defenders. In his defence P.K. had said, “To combat the tall Chinese and Korean strikers I have to go for physically strong players.”
Top notch foreign coaches in charge of Indian football must be already thinking along the same lines as that of P.K. Banerjee. In the next U-15 I- league, scouts should look for tall and strong defenders as well as strikers. In fact, the emphasis should be on picking physically strong footballers. Skill of course, is of paramount importance. But power dominant style of modern soccer can blunt skilful players with frail physique.
The shortcoming of not inheriting the gene can never be reversed. But a discernible change is very much on the cards if the boys are physically groomed with skilled fitness coaches. The gospel is loud and clear since the 80’s – that nursery level footballers have to be physically groomed. In reality even in 2017, nursery level footballers across India just do not have any physical grooming except for one odd Reliance, Lajong FC or TFA academy.
You will find a lot of youtube videos where the Barcelona or Manchester nursery boys are going through fitness drills. There the nursery culture is mandatory. Look at the historic I-league clubs like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. Their U-19 teams do not have a fitness coach. It is the football coach who would impart fitness training. These footballers are badly denied strength training as none of the clubs have a proper gym. And what about nutrition? Pathetic to say the least.
A bowl of chicken stew containing a piece of chicken is considered a grand diet. With most of the footballers coming from lower middle class family, they are hammered by deficit calorie.
The growth of the bones and muscles hinges not only on resistance training, but equally on intake of protein and calcium. It’s time the old fashioned club officials who feels ‘football is played from the heart’ should move out. Let there be fund and professional approach at the nursery level.
I have travelled to the Northeast and seen the craze of soccer in Aizwal and Shillong. With strong lower limbs, footballers from that part are assets. However, you can never ignore Bengal , Punjab, Hyderabad which were breeding ground of footballers in the past.
A unique endeavour to unearth physically strong footballers is to entice the rich schools in taking up soccer. Football should spread among the rich and middle class rather than being levelled as a lower class game. If not now, then 20 years down the line India may find 11 Brewsters in the line up.
(Chinmoy Roy is a veteran fitness expert & trainer and has been associated in different capacities with Indian and Bengal cricket for decades)