Exclusive Interview With The Technical Director Of Indian Football - Colin Toal

Goal.com catches up with Indian football’s technical director, Colin Toal and gets his views on several issues relating to youth development in India...
The India U-19 team is in Dubai to play a few friendlies before possibly flying out to Iraq for the Asian group qualifiers where they are placed in Group D with the likes of Afghanistan, Iraq, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Goal.com: How has the preparation for the India U-19 squad been?

Toal: It’s been a long camp we have had from the start of May until now. It’s been a good camp where we have worked hard, played a lot of games and I must say that I am pleased with the progress. In Dubai, we shall play some friendlies.

Goal.com: What’s the best way of improving the youth development structure in India?

Toal: We have tried to put together a set of boys together for as long as possible and that’s probably the best way for improvement. Working with the U-14, U-16 and the U-19’s is the best way to go about seeing some development. It’s also important to get that continuity going. In our present U-19 team, we have at least 13 boys from the U-16 group of 2007. So the boys have spent three years together or you can say that they have been around for three seasons.

"A strong youth development programme and I-League are essential for a strong national team"

Goal.com: How does youth development contribute to a better and stronger national team?

Toal: I do think youth development plays a very important role. For a strong national team, there are two ingredients which are essential: 1) A strong and able youth development programme and 2) A strong National League or the I-League.

Now what can we do to make the teams stronger? National teams cannot spend 100 million dollars on five or six players so that they change the season like it’s done at the Real Madrids and Chelseas. It doesn’t work that way. Or can we naturalize one or two Nigerian players so that they are eligible for the national team? I feel it’s against the spirit of international football by playing foreigners in your national team by giving them citizenship.

The only way forward is to concentrate on the two points I mentioned. Focus on youth development and the I-League and it shall pay dividends in the years to come.

Goal.com: What about youth development programme apart from those who are in the national team?

That’s where the I-League clubs have to take the responsibility. Look at Salgaocar, who have an U-12, U-14, U-16, U-19 and a senior team. That’s the kind of structure you want to see at the club level and that’s what works in the world of football. If the clubs have this structure, it gives us the opportunity to choose from a large set of players. The more, the merrier. If the I-League clubs do what they are supposed to, the game would be so much better in this country.

Goal.com: Bob Houghton mentioned of how the players from the U-16 and U-19 teams get lost in oblivion when they join the I-League clubs. Since you work with these boys on a daily basis, how much does this issue concern you?

Toal: Now that’s a problem. We have a good group of players and our U-19 has been competing against all the clubs. The I-League clubs are aware of how tough we are and what we have. The problem is once we are back from Iraq, what’s going to happen? What’s next?

Join the clubs and hope to play in the I-League where only five of the outfield players are Indians! Where the clubs don’t have reserve teams? Their future will be the same as what happened to those 14 boys who graduated from the Tata Football Academy (TFA) in March last year and all of them have disappeared except one. That disturbs me a lot.

These youngsters are thrown into the I-League dumping ground and since they don’t get to play enough, they soon get disillusioned and feel wasted. I hope it doesn’t happen but if it continues this way, then all the good work done will go.

"The onus is on the I-League clubs"

Goal.com: So how do we resolve this issue?

The solution is that the I-League clubs will have to recognise and take the onus to develop Indian football. We need youngsters to play and improve. You go to any I-League club and you’ll find at least 12 or 20 boys disillusioned as they don’t even get a game. I’m afraid if this is the future. You have to give your reserve and youth teams’ equal importance as the senior teams.

Goal.com: Final words on going to Iraq.

Toal: The AFC have chosen Iraq and have assured that’s it safe to play. We hope to go and play there. Let’s see what we are going to do

Rahul Bali.

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