MUMBAI: Footballer-turned-analyst Paul Masefield on Friday criticised All India Football Federation’s idea of holding an IPL-style league, saying that it can have an adverse impact on the development of the game in the country.
“This is a ridiculous idea that could have a real negative and adverse effect on Indian football and the I-League, in particular. This isn’t cricket. It’s football. You can’t do it with football. You can do it with cricket. It’s great,” the former English professional said.
The AIFF and its marketing partner IMG-Reliance have proposed to hold a city-based franchise league on the lines of popular Indian Premier League in cricket.
But the proposal has met with opposition from the I-League clubs who have decided not to release any of their players for the proposed tournament.
“It’s nonsense. I do believe it makes a mockery of the I-League. If you see the way some of the teams have done and gone through … Trevor Morgan (coach of Kingfisher East Bengal) has done a fantastic job. I have watched them play this year in AFC Cup. They have developed. Now all of a sudden you have a tournament that is 70 days or three months (long),” he said.
“It’s not going to help fund the I-League. Why don’t they go in and help fund the I-League? That would be more beneficial – by giving the money there, filtering down to the teams, paying the players more, making it more viable. So for me, it’s nonsense. I wouldn’t agree with that league at all.”
Masefield, who was recently appointed technical director of Mumbai-based Kooh Sports Football Development Centre, pointed out that a similar thing happened in Indonesia with two domestic leagues in place — the Indonesian Premier League and the Indonesia Super League — and it threatened the sport in that country.
“Look what happened in Indonesia with the split. They have got major problems with two leagues running and it is only by the grace of God that FIFA hasn’t sanctioned them.
“I think there would be repercussions. Is it going to be a split league? Is it going to be sanctioned by AIFF? If it is, then later down the line if there is a fallout, then what happens then?” he asked.
“It’s wrong. It’s a two-month league. You need one league and 8-9 months (of duration). That is how you roll it out. It’s something that I don’t agree with. The I-League was here well before IMG-Reliance and all that. Unfortunately, all this is about money and I think it would have an adverse effect on the I-League,” Masefield said.
Masefield, who was a part of the Birmingham City squad in the late 80s and early 90s, felt Indian players don’t measure up to the standards of their European counterparts, because they don’t receive a proper grounding in basic skills.
“There is a vast difference. I think the biggest problem over here is that they have never been taught the fundamental basics at an early age. That is a real problem. That is why I wanted to get involved and that is why I am part of this programme,” he said.
“Because I think it is vitally important that the kids do get to know how to stop a ball, how to pass, move the ball and over all basics that are key elements in making a footballer or talent.
“The good thing is that because it hasn’t been done before, when you do it now, there will be instant success and within two three months, you will see a difference in the kids. It’s how you sustain that interest, and that is part of our programme,” he said.
Masefield said Kooh Sports will look at setting up football academies across the country to nurture talent.
“We will be doing clinics that range from two days to a week and then we will be looking at setting up academies in different locations. We are not looking at just the metro cities. We want to increase the talent pool so that they have more players to chose from in the future.”
Without mentioning any name, the Singapore-based football analyst took a dig at some of the top European clubs who, he said, visited the Asian countries only for making some money without giving anything back.
“A lot of European clubs, they just come in, have a camp and they go away. Now I have lived in Asia over half my life and I can tell you that a lot of these European Clubs try to take money and go. They are not giving anything back. They are not doing it right.”
Masefield said the exception to this rule was Manchester United.
“At least Manchester United has a soccer school here. They are doing it right. Their base is strong, which is good. The more people who do it, the bigger the talent pool and it is only going to benefit Indian football,” he said.
The former footballer saw a huge boost to the game in the country if India’s proposed bid to host the Under-17 FIFA World Cup in four years’ time is successful.
“It would be a massive help. Scott O’Donell, who is with the AIFF, is looking to try and implement things. The federation is trying to pull this together. They are trying to get this talent base so that in the next 12 months, they can develop them for this competition.”
He predicted an increased participation in the game in India, which he expected to double in the next few years, because of the World Cup in Brazil next year and the continuing popularity of the English Premier League.
“Football in India is big anyways. Everyone says it’s a second cousin to cricket. Why should football be cast as a second fiddle? I think within the next 12 months, everything is going to flip. Viewership for the English Premier League is going to be massive this year.
“Next year we have got the World Cup. It would not surprise me if the number of participation within football would be doubling or trebling in the next 12-14 months due to these two events,” he said.