'Don’t be surprised if our ranking drops' - India coach Wim Koevermans

The Dutch coach spoke on India's football scenario in an interview with a premier sports magazine in the country....

Coaches who have taken charge of the Indian national team have all had a common denominator, criticism of the country’s lackadaisical attitude towards ‘The Beautiful Game’. Wim Koevermans is no different as he was held directly responsible for India’s failure to qualify for the AFC Challenge Cup in 2014 in Maldives.

The Dutchman expressed his displeasure over the poor standards being set by the I-League which has a direct impact on the national side. India moved up by 24 places under the Euro 88 winner to 143 in the FIFA Rankings, but Wim reiterates the need for more work. 

“That India is ranked 143 is great, but we may drop. Consistency is not there with regard to climbing the stairs to reach a higher level. Don’t be surprised if our ranking drops. We have to make sure we keep climbing,” said Koevermans to Sportstar.

India put up a disappointing show in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers

Koevermans has emphasized that All India Football Federation (AIFF) Technical Director Rob Baan’s ‘Lakshya’ initiative has to be put into action and must not remain merely as words.

“The intentions are okay; action is more important. We have a Technical Director who wrote this master plan for Indian football. Many countries have such master plans. It is not about re-inventing the wheel, it is only paper, in book form, lying on the table. If nobody picks it up and makes it work, nothing will happen. The document has all the ingredients for football development, starting now. It will take years to develop, but you will see the steps for the road ahead. We have to fix targets and start working. That is why I believe in the tagline ‘Just Do It’,” said the 52-year old.

The coach dismissed the claim that Indian players plying their trade at foreign clubs would help the country. The Dutchman explained that development of football in the country must take priority over sending players abroad. “If our development is planned well at every level, then logically, automatically we will have players in outside competitions. Indians getting into foreign clubs cannot be set as a target,” the coach was quoted saying.

Sunil Chhetri returned to India after a frustrating time at Lisbon

Returning to the issue of the need for a more competitive I-League, Wim took the time to explain how this would help the team on the long run.

“A lot of players earn a lot of money here in India, so they see no reason to go outside. With better competition in India, things will change and then other countries will be interested in our players. Ultimately, that will be good for the national team because the experience of playing outside will help,” said Koevermans.

One of the most noticeable aspects of the Dutchman’s tenure in charge of the national side has been the emphasis on playing a 'pass-and-move' based game in contrast to the long-ball tactics of Indian teams of yesteryear. Though this approach has not garnered many a favourable result, Koevermans staunchly sticks by his beliefs. 

“I have my ideas about the national team. We started playing in a certain style (combining and passing along the ground in contrast to the long-ball tactics earlier). For some players, it is not the style they play at their clubs, but once they are together with the Indian team, I can see that the style of play fits the players. We are trying to play in a way what everybody in the world is following,” he said.

The former Netherlands youth team coach revealed that he would be involved in a Pro-Licensing course in May along with other I-League coaches that would expose them to a whole new range of coaching techniques.

When quizzed about the influence of foreign players in the league, the Dutchman felt that the foreign players coming into a side have to be better than the others in the squad so that the younger members of the squad learn from them. He called for a healthy blend between foreigners and young Indian players within each team.

Arata Izumi became the first foreign player of Indian origin to play for the Blue Tigers. The 30-year old had a valid Indian passport that allowed him to be classified as an Indian player for his club Pune FC. Koevermans revealed that there were many other players playing in foreign leagues who nurtured a desire to play for India, but are unable to do so as they do not hold an Indian passport.

“There must be a policy in India that makes it easier for people to get a passport so that we can have top sportspersons into the system. That is not my call. I am aware there are enough players of Indian origin wanting to play (for India),” signed off the India gaffer.

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