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Indian Football is a gold mine waiting to be explored, says Arsene Wenger

Wenger also had a long and fruitful discussion with the AIFF president, Kalyan Chaubey and acting secretary general Satyanarayan M on setting up the AIFF-FIFA Academy and youth development in India.

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New Delhi: FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development Arsene Wenger on Monday visited the Football House, AIFF’s headquarters, and had an interaction with the heads of a select group of football academies from across the country.

Wenger also had a long and fruitful discussion with the AIFF president, Kalyan Chaubey and acting secretary general Satyanarayan M on setting up the AIFF-FIFA Academy and youth development in India.

Wenger, Arsenal’s former football manager, and his team from the FIFA Talent Development Scheme are currently on a three-day visit to India in connection with the AIFF-FIFA Academy to be inaugurated in Bhubaneswar (Odisha) on Tuesday.

“We are so very honoured and privileged to host and welcome Wenger. His experience in football needs no introduction or explanation. I can just hope and pray that he continues to be involved with India’s Talent Development Scheme project,” Chaubey said while welcoming Wenger on his maiden India visit.

“We have been discussing this project for nearly three months now. Wenger’s visit to India and his experience and support from FIFA, I am sure will make this project a huge success.” the AIFF boss said.

Commenting on India’s football development, Chaubey said, “Let’s not only develop football in India. Rather, make a space on the map of world football, where everyone of us present in this house today can say, yes, on that particular day, November 20, 2023, at the Football House, India, we were there.”

Wenger on his part, said, “I would say I was always fascinated by India. My target is to improve football in the world. And it is impossible that a country like India, 1.4 billion, is not on the football world map.”

“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.”

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.

“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 five to 15 with the best possible capacity to be technically at the top. That means, basically, to make it simple, is to make the ball his friend. The rest can be developed later. And this is absolutely vital.

“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,” he said.

Speaking on India’s potential aspirations and goals, Wenger said, “So 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.”

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