'We need icons to promote football in India' - AIFF Technical Director Rob Baan

In his speech at FICCI’s GOAL 2013 convention, Rob Baan, the AIFF Technical director, spoke about his master plan and the problems that Indian football is facing…
The All India Football Federation's (AIFF) Technical Director Rob Baan, speaking at FICCI's GOAL 2013 Convention on Indian Football, highligted the importance of sports in India and how investing in the 'beautiful game' is very much a viable business.

“Football is business. You can make a business out of football. If we look at the salary of the foreign players here in India, they make around $500,000 a year. I think this is business,” he said.

“If we only talk about money and business, then we should not talk about football because the idea is attracting young kids. Kids are not attracted to sports, they find it boring and because of which many get into criminal situations. So the idea is making them a better human being with the help of sports,” he added.

Baan lamented the lack of sporting icons in India in the sphere of football which could grab the attention of kids. “What we need in India is icons. The icon in India is Sunil Chhetri, but what we read recently is that he has come back from Sporting Lisbon (B side) to play for Churchill Brothers, so was his spell a successful one? I must come to a conclusion that it wasn't,” he commented.

“If he had played for their first team and played in Champions League etc, then it could have been termed as a successful one”

“India needs icons and no, they should not come from Africa or anywhere else but from India. Who can be the Indian Ronaldo or Indian 'Messi'? Who can be the first coach to train in Japan or Europe? These are the challenges. We need icons to promote football in India and without icons nothing is possible and to create icons we need money so that brings us back to the business part of the game. You need to get sponsors attracted to a youth development program and when the program is up and running we will produce more icons," he explained.

Rob Baan stressed the importance of having youth development programs, because only then would his master plan titled 'Lakshya 2022' would bring results. He opined, “To make the master plan work, the conclusion is that we need money and what really is necessary in this country is that we start grassroot programs so that we give all the kids who want to play, the possibility of playing football.

“We have recently started our first programme in Mizoram, which is a great success because on the first day 500 kids showed up with their parents for participating in this program.”

The former Technical Director of Australia then criticized the I-League clubs for their lack of interest in youth development which has ultimately resulted in the national side not benefiting in the long run.

“We need a budget to be invested in a development officer to start the grass-root project. We need in each I-League club a youth development program.

“I-League clubs' owners only invest their money on the foreigners. They want short term success because
of which no money is going into the youth development program that means we will not get anywhere," added the 69-year-old.

“State associations could develop a youth development program but they have no man power and budget.”

Baan also felt that until such developments take place, even a second string side of Palestine would continue to get the better of the Blue Tigers on home soil.

“The press and the media recently were unhappy that our national side lost to Palestine, but we should realize that this is the standard of our football. We are not good enough to beat Palestine. Our I-League is not at the level to get players on a higher level. So we first need to develop our own league and that will ultimately benefit the national team.

“We need a top I-League and we can get that by giving our young talent a chance and not by buying foreign players. The I-League teams, except the likes of the Pune FC, lack vision as to how they can bring their own talents," he pointed.

The Dutchman also revealed that his technical team is working towards training the coaches and the referees who have an important role to play in the footballing eco-system. “Coach education is of course part of how you can get better players. We are working hard by renewing our curriculum and trying to get quality instructors and coaches. We need good referees if we want to play on a higher level and last but not the least we need facilities,” he demands.

In a bid to drive home his point, he further stated, “We have done some courses for the coaches and a lot of activities for the referees have also been done.”

“To get more business we need more attention from the public that means we need more people at the matches but that is very tough because of the timings of the [I-League] games,” he highlighted.

Rob Baan also mentioned how the national side, even though it has been successful in recent times in his view, has hardly progressed in the FIFA Rankings, given that India is currently 167th in the world.

“Our national team has been successful on occasions, but moving just one position higher in the rankings (since I have come) is not exactly being successful. The women’s team has been more successful but we have not given them the right pathway,” he concluded.

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