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Will start work with AIFF very soon, says Wenger | Football News

Arsene Wenger said India’s population is both an opportunity and a challenge when it comes to scouting talent for football. “The number is an advantage, but the organisation’s task gets tougher. 1.4 billion people, I’d say it’s a gold mine, but a gold mine, which, at the moment, we have not analysed or identified well,” he said.

FIFA Chief of Global Football Development Arsene Wenger (REUTERS)
FIFA Chief of Global Football Development Arsene Wenger (REUTERS)

Now chief of global football development at FIFA, the decorated Premier League-winning former Arsenal manager is likely to visit India next month. The aim of the visit would be to help All India Football Federation (AIFF) set up a central academy with help from FIFA.

“I’m confident because I believe that success is linked to education. We want to give the opportunity to educate young people to watch football in India,” he said, in an interview released by AIFF on Thursday.

Wenger has met AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey and secretary-general Shaji Prabhakaran at the Women’s World Cup last month and at the men’s World Cup in 2022. The proposed visit is a result of those meetings.

Talent development, he said, is a two-step process. Identification of potential talent is the first, developing them through “quality of the educational programme and the coaching” is next.

“We will need to work together with the AIFF to identify the talent first. And after that we have to group the best with the best. Under that, you have the grassroots game for the whole country. …We will start work really soon,” said Wenger, 73.

“I don’t see why India would not be on the world map with the number of players. It’s a sporting country. At the moment, cricket is their number one sport. I have nothing against cricket. I was in England for a long time and I know how important cricket is to England. But there is room for other sports… Football is a fantastic sport where there is no discrimination based on weight or size. If you have good technique, you play,” said Wenger whose ‘Invincibles’ Arsenal team won the 2003-04 Premier League without losing a game.

That was when Wenger was in the “results business.” And while the Frenchman said that life was “fantastic” even if it was “very, very demanding”, he has now moved to working on long-term projects.

“I would say that with what I’ve learnt, is how we can guide people. This will be more long-term and a deeper satisfaction. That’s why I’m in the part of my life where I can help people, and the legacy I can leave in football is absolutely fantastic,” he said.

Wenger, who was at Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1995 and 1996, said India should adopt Japan’s method of making grassroots development and education a priority. “I arrived in Japan in 1995. They started the professional league in 1993. But they understood very early that you need to create academies and education for young players, and did that programme very well. Look at them now, the boys as well as the girls. Japan are among the top of the world rankings. They are a good example to follow.”

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