Indian skipper Baichung Bhutia suggests India take part in more international tournaments to improve its FIFA ranking and urged promising youngsters to venture abroad to fine tune their skills to international standards.
"Whenever Indian youngsters get good offers from abroad, they should lap it up. Only then can they learn modern soccer techniques and taste competition at the highest level," Bhutia, who spent three years with English professional side Bury FC, said in Kolkata.
The Indian national side, he said, would also benefit from the rich experience of these boys taking up foreign assignments.
Expressing concern at India's consistent failure to improve its FIFA ranking substantially, Bhutia said the AIFF should ensure that the team takes part in more international competitions.
"It is important to play more international tournaments to improve our ranking. Once we move up, we will get more invitations to participate in international meets, which will in turn help in further lifting our standards," he said.
The Sikkimese striker, however, expressed confidence about India climbing up the FIFA charts under the stewardship of chief national coach Stephen Constantine.
Lavishly praising the Anglo-Cypriot coach, who took over the reins a little over a year back, Bhutia said "Stephen has done a great job. Under him, the players have improved a lot. The longer he stays, the better it is for India".
The star striker said Constantine had some good plans for the Indian team, and with support from the AIFF, he would be able to put them in place in the near future.
Describing 2002 as a "good year" for Indian soccer, when the Busan Asiad-bound side won the LG Cup under his captaincy, Bhutia blamed a spate of injuries for the dip in the performance this year.
"A number of key players were injured since late last year. I also could not assist the side after the Asiad due to injury. But the guys generally played well," Bhutia said.
"They were unlucky to draw some matches which they should have won. Again, they lost some games which they ideally should have drawn," he said.
Despite expressing happiness with the pre-season training in his club East Bengal under the South African physical trainer Kevin Jackson, Bhutia indicated that he was not in favour of recruiting a high-profile trainer for the national team.
"A trainer can produce results only over a prolonged period. But national camps are held for shorter durations. Also it is difficult to arrange for pre-season training at the national level," he said.
"I think it is the clubs which should have quality trainers to feed supremely fit players to the Indian team," Bhutia said.