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India to adopt Spanish blueprint

New coach Koevermans has ambitious goal with country ranked 163

Wim Koevermans
Gulf News

Mumbai: India should learn from world champions Spain and develop a style woven around short passes than aerial balls to lift their football standard, new coach Wim Koevermans told Reuters.

While passion for football is intact in the cricket-mad country of 1.2 billion people, the Indian national team, ranked 163, languish near the bottom of the Fifa world standings.

Koevermans, part of the Dutch squad that won the 1988 European championship, was entrusted with the challenging job of making an improvement.

“I am in a completely different culture. You need to know how to get the message across, how to work with the players and with the backroom staff,” Koevermans, 52, said in an interview.

“That’s an interesting challenge for me but one I am looking forward to.”

The world’s second most populous nation has a rich football history of its own but Indians wonder every four years why they fail to get close to the World Cup.

The towering Dutchman, who travelled to Oman to watch the India juniors play in the AFC under-22 championships and watched some videos of the senior team’s matches before taking charge, was not disappointed.

“I have a very positive impression. I think we can try and implement a different style of play that suits the players,” said Koevermans, who took over as India’s coach in July.

“The players are most important in the choice you make on how to play.

“If you ask them to play like Spain that will be something stupid because the Indian players are not the Spanish players.”

But there was still something that the coach felt the Indian players could learn from their Spanish counterparts.

“It’s very interesting to see what Spain did over the past 40 years and how they developed their strategy and their style of play,” he said.

“They play in a style that suits their players and gives them courage.”

Koevermans felt that long aerial passes do not suit the Indian players due to their lack of height.

“From what I have seen is that keeping the ball on the ground for as long as possible will suit our players,” he said.

“When the ball is up in the air, we have small players and we always lose possession.

“That is something we have to change in order to try and create more chances to win the game.”

India, where cricket dominates all other sports, could take a leaf out of neighbours China in boosting the profile of football in the country, Koevermans said.

China’s rich football club owners have managed to entice players like former Chelsea strikers Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, helping inspire the country’s young footballers and improve standards.

“It makes football more attractive. It shows China are on the way up,” he said.

“I remember when [Japan’s] J-League started, they took famous players and coaches from across the world and now they are on their own.

“Japan started 20 years ago and China is starting now. So I believe India will also be on that line.”