India needs proper infrastructure to excel: Man United CEO

Mumbai: Indian football faces the challenge of putting the right infrastructure in place if it is to excel in the sport, feels Manchester United chief executive officer David Gill.

"The challenge in India is to do things - to get the right infrastructure in place, to build it from the bottom to get the youngsters playing, get the right coaches in place - you need to get everything.”

"You just can`t have just one good coach without players willing to play, you can`t have good players without coaches, you can`t have infrastructure without coaches. It sounds simple but it is not," Gill told said on the sidelines of the launch of the Manchester United Soccer School in Mumbai.

The Western India Football Association has partnered Manchester United to set up the football academy, the English Premier League club`s first in India, where kids between 8-17 years would be coached much like the way the Red Devils train.

The soccer school has produced superstars like David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Danny Welbeck in the past.

Asked about the investment for the academy, he said, "I don`t have an answer for that because we don`t put numbers on it. These pitches don`t come cheap, the stands don`t come cheap.”

"We make sure that through some of our programmes some of the players get scholarships to give the youngsters a chance. We set the goals but you have got to set realistic goals so that you can get the money, get the return and get the following and it all comes together.”

"The goal should be to get Indian football sorted and getting the Indian team up. In time you should see India in top of the world game...thats our goal. It`s a very exciting venture and we are looking forward to it," he added.

Acknowledging that cricket is still the biggest sport in India, Gill said, "personally, I would like to be in the country when Mr. (Sachin) Tendulkar gets his hundredth hundred. I hope he scores the 33 runs tomorrow morning before I catch my plane to England."

Union Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises and Western India Football Association president Praful Patel said, "Manchester United should not be limited to schools in India, our clubs in India in course of time should move to co-branding with the English Premier clubs. The game will come, the crowd will come and the money will come."

Patel, who is also the AIFF president, further said the game will grow only if it is promoted in nook and corner of the country.

"The new astro turf at the Cooperage football ground is in association with FIFA. The next astro turf will be laid in Maharashtra in Kolhapur in the next six months or so. We have three FIFA educational projects coming up -- one in Andamans, one in Bangalore, the third in Sikkim," he added.

Emphasising on the importance of laying a strong foundation for the game, Patel said, "We are committed to see a strong foundation for football to be built in the future. This is something we look forward to. Until and unless we build that foundation to build the game in future, there is no hope for Indian football. We would like to see in 2017 India move to the next big league."