Arsene Wenger knows more than a thing or two about top-flight football. So when he speaks on the sport, one better listen. The former Arsenal manager, who is currently the chief of global football development for the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), is on a three-day visit to India for launching a joint academy by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and FIFA in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday, November 21. (Football News)
Wenger said he has always been fascinated by India and its potential in global football. "My target is to improve football in the world. And it is impossible that a country like India, with a population of 1.4 billion, is not on the football world map,” he said.
“I believe you have huge assets, fantastic qualities that make me very optimistic about what you can do here. It is absolutely fantastic to have that opportunity. And with my team, we are really highly motivated to help this country develop in the game. I'm convinced that it's possible in the very short term,” Wenger added.
Explaining how a well-oriented talent development scheme can change the face of the game in a country, Wenger said, “I was in Japan at the start of their football in 1995. In 1998, they were at the World Cup. So that means it is possible. You have to start early."
He also held forth on the future of football. “What will football be like in 2030? How can we imagine what our needed quality is in 2030? But what is for sure, is where we start with technique. Football is a technical sport. We have to equip the players from ages five to 15 with the best possible capacity to be technically at the top. That means, basically, to make the ball his friend. The rest can be developed later. And this is absolutely vital."
Wenger added: “So, this is where we have to start and that's where we want to help people to make young players technically perfect. The start of our programme is to identify the talent and then put the best talents together.”
FIFA's Chief of Global Football Development Mr. Arsene Wenger, along with AIFF President Mr. Kalyan Chaubey, arrived at the Bhubaneswar Airport, where he was greeted by Special Secretary to CM, Odisha, and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Department of Sports and Youth Services,… pic.twitter.com/JDgMwwF2M2— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) November 20, 2023
Speaking on India’s potential aspirations and goals, the legendary Arsenal coach said, “Imagine the potential that is here if we work well. And my main target here is to convince people that there is a gold mine here but at the moment it is not completely explored, exploited and encouraged.”
The 74-year-old Frenchman had an interaction with the heads of a select group of football academies from across the country on Monday, November 20, 2023. He also had a long discussion with AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey and acting secretary general Satyanarayan M on setting up the AIFF-FIFA Academy and youth development in India. This is Wenger’s first visit to the country.