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The former India skipper states that Pailan Arrows’ form in the I-League only highlights the plethora of young players coming up in the nation…

Bhaichung Bhutia believes that a lot of hard work must be put in before even expecting India to climb the FIFA rankings ladder as they lie currently in the 165th spot.

In the anniversary issue of football magazine 90 Minutes, the Sikkimese Sniper draws attention to the poor performance by Pailan Arrows in the I-League last season where they finished second from bottom which only goes to underline the quality of youngsters coming up through the system.

On being asked the youngsters have the potential to do better than the rankings indicate, Bhaichung was forthright in his comments.

“I won’t say they have BIG potential, but I will say they’ve got potential. They’ll have to really work hard, though. It’s not a good sign, honestly, when you don’t have a 22 or 23-year-old scoring a few goals in the league, or don’t have an Indian in the top five league goal-scorers. We had Manandeep this year who has been great, but we need a few more Manandeeps at least in the I-League, and youngsters scoring double-digit goals,” he said.

“Or, we need to have 2-3 young players who are one of the most important players in their club, but we’ve not had that. We’ve seen Pailan Arrows struggle to even win a single game, and that’s supposed to be our best U-23 side. We have the talent but we’ll have to work quite a lot,” he further explained.

However with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) appointing Rob Baan and Wim Koevermans as the technical director and national coach respectively, there seems to be a hope of better things to come.

“I think these guys have come with big experience and big knowledge about the game.  Development programmes in Holland at the grassroots are very good, and I think bringing Rob Baan and Koevermans is a great step. Obviously what we need to do is give them a longer period of time to change things,” he mentioned.

The United Sikkim FC co-owner believes that nothing can be achieved unless the clubs and the local state associations also pledge their support to the Dutch duo to implement changes in the exisiting system.

“At the same time we need support from clubs and the state associations when it comes to releasing players for the national side at various levels. Unless we don’t support these guys, that knowledge will never be able to come out. And in India, the biggest problem is not money or infrastructure. What we lack is the ideas and the brains. Once we get that knowhow and those ideas, things will follow. Baan and Koevermans are the ones with those ideas. That’s our biggest challenge.”

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