New Delhi: Former Wales international and Liverpool legend, Ian rush believes that cricket's popularity has played a major part in preventing the growth of football in India.
"I do not follow Indian football but one of the reasons why the sport is lagging behind is because of the huge following enjoyed by Cricket," said the former legend.
Talking to the reporters on the sidelines of the launch of 'Steve McMahon Football Academy' in the city in association with Liverpool FC, Rush said that Indian footballers have no one to look upto unlike other Asian countries.
"There is no one the footballers in India would look upto unlike China or Korea and probably that is also a reason why India has remained behind," the former player said.
Another former Liverpool player McMahon, who will be the head coach and chief mentor of the academy, endorsed the views of Rush saying that football remained neglected due to the huge success enjoyed by cricket.
Emphasising upon the lack of proper infrastructure for football in India, McMahon said, "With the success of cricket, a lot of infrastructure was built for the game, but the other sports remained neglected."
The former England international, however, said the sport can only head in a positive direction from here on.
"There is a vast reservoir of talent in the country, it's only the matter of nurturing them at the right age and in a right way," McMahon insisted.
Rush, who holds the club record of scoring 346 goals in 660 appearances, meanwhile added that with the country getting international exposure the future looks to be heading in a positive direction.
"You have Argentina playing Venezuela in Kolkata, it will certainly have an affect on the young enthusiasts," he said.
Asked why the likes of Lionel Messi was not able to put up a good performance for his national team as he used to at Barcelona, Rush said the star footballer was probably trying too hard.
"Sometimes when you play for your country you put an added pressure on yourself of performing well and try too hard. At Barcelona Messi probably feels much relaxed," Rush added.
On the Liverpool's not so good run in the Premier League over the past couple of years, the legend said the team will come back strong and said the future under manager Kenny Dalglish augurs well for the club.
Rush, who is on his maiden visit to the country, said that the club will strive hard to teach the kids in India the "Liverpool way" of playing the game.
"The game should bring smiles on the faces of boys and girls and if that smile is missing that means there is something missing with the skills and coaching. So we intend to devise sessions to teach the skills to the coaches and the kids," he said.
First Published: Wednesday, August 24, 2011, 19:02