Reading FC coaches give thumbs up to Arunachal soccer talent

Itanagar: Arunachal Pradesh can produce footballers of world class if the abundant talent among young footballers is properly harnessed, two renowned coaches of Europe`s leading soccer club Reading FC said.

For Eamonn Dolan and Lee Heron, who are also the director and deputy director of the Reading Football Academy respectively in the UK, there was no reason why budding footballers in the state cannot graduate to world standard players.

The coaches, who are here on a talent hunt visit, were pretty impressed by the potential and high spirit of the young players.

“The potential is clearly visible in the spirited and entertaining game played by the young players," Eamonn, who has played in many top English Premier League clubs, including West Ham United, Bristol City and Birmingham City, and been a manager of Exeter City FC for many years, said.

Prior to arriving in Itanagar on September 30, a four-member delegation of the club, including the CEO and the director, had called on state Chief Minister Nabam Tuki in New Delhi, expressing keen interest in exploring football talent in the state.

Normally the director of Reading Football Academy doesn’t travel, but just because the chief minister was so enthusiastic about football, the Reading FC sent him personally, sources said.

Eamonn said that for the past few days he and Lee had been watching matches and interviewing some players.

They enquired about the available infrastructure, coaches and facilities and also weighed the possibility of joining hands with the state government and Arunachal Pradesh Football Association.

Eamonn is one of the top football academy managers in the world, credited with playing for the Republic of Ireland under 21 and played in the FIFA Youth World Cup 1985 besides producing many international and premier league players.

“Spirit is the key for the success of soccer in Europe for which proper planning about infrastructure, facilities, identifying players at young age, developing them through proper coaching in a disciplined manner is of vital importance," he said.

"The players need psychological, physical, moral, medical and sports support. This is how we do it in Europe and there is no reason why we can’t do it in India,” Eamonn said with confidence.

He joined Reading FC Academy in 2004 and since then has revolutionized the Club academy.

Asked if Indian players were lacking in the killer instinct, Lee Heron said that attitude could be developed only by catching them young and training them adequately to aim at the goal only.

Eamonn spoke effusively about the hospitality and warmth of the people of Arunachal, and made special mention of Lok Sabha MP Takam Sanjoy who is also the president of the Arunachal Pradesh Football Academy.

“We would not be found lacking in reciprocating the hospitality,” he said.

Lee, Academy Development Manager, has been working in his position for 11 years after having retired from playing in a number of small clubs in England.

The two coaches said that if it indeed turned out that there were talents in the state, the club would place two qualified coaches in the state on a permanent basis to train as well as hunt for talents.

Subsequently, the selected talents would be trained at the highest level at Reading Football Academy in the UK for free, the sources said.

Reading FC Football Academy has one of the best training facilities in the world with more than 100 highly qualified football coaches.