Teddy Sheringham
Teddy Sheringham Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Former Indian Super League (ISL) coach Teddy Sheringham has suggested a wave of measures that can possibly push football to a higher level in the near future.

The English international, 54, spent one season with not much success with Atletico de Kolkata in the 2018 ISL.

Formed in May 2014 and owned by Kolkata Games and Sports, the owners consist of former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly alongside businessmen Harshavardhan Neotia, Sanjiv Goenka and Utsav Parekh. For the first three seasons Spanish La Liga club Atletico Madrid were also co-owners, but their shares were later purchased by Goenka.

After the end of their partnership, Atletico de Kolkata were re-christened to ATK in July 2017, but the team colours continue to be derived from their former Spanish partners.

Appointed head coach at ATK in July 2017 with former Irish international Robbie Keane as their new marquee player, Sheringham was sacked after winning just three of his 10 games. But the shrewd mind of Sheringham has seen enough to comment on the state of football in India.

“There are so many things that need to be done really, right from the refereeing to the grass roots and even the diet of players,” Sheringham said while speaking on the 11th episode of online seminar ‘The Player, The Coach, The Person’ hosted by It’s Just Football’s Chris Brown earlier this week.

“The refereeing wasn’t of the highest standard. It was ridiculously bad. In my very first game, I witnessed a horrendous challenge on one of my players, but the referee simply waved ‘play-on’, and that left me stunned,” he added.

“I believe they had drafted in some English referees, but they still need to develop this aspect of the game.”

Sheringham further admitted that Indian football needs to pay particular attention to development at the grass roots level. “The young players have to get a football culture wherein they just keep on kicking the ball around all the time. The players have to realise that just kicking the ball around helps in continuously developing the muscles from an early age,” he said.

“There is no doubt that the grass roots levels need a huge improvement, starting from top quality training grounds to the development of a reserve team and lower age-group sides that can continually feed the main team.”

Making 51 appearances for England and working under some of the best coaches in the business, Sheringham also felt that Indian players need to pay attention to their food intake. “I find the diet of the Indian players is very doughy and fatty. Such a diet certainly doesn’t enhance their ability to give off their best on the pitch,” he said.

“I have seen Indian players who can barely make it through 20 minutes on the field. This simply means that a lot of the players don’t have their bodies ready for professional and top-level football.

“You never say never in football. But I have seen the huge gulf in levels between the foreign professionals and the Indian players. And when you have a situation like this then it gets very difficult to work with the lesser level players,” he said.

In January this year, it was announced that the owners of ATK had bought an 80 per cent stake in Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan. As a result, it was also announced that the ATK brand would merge with Mohun Bagan and a new club would be formed as of June 1, 2020.