Former German football great Paul Breitner has tipped India, the world’s second-most populous nation, to become a major power in the globe’s most followed sport in under two decades.
The 64-year-old former midfield general, who was part of the German sides which won the World Cup in 1974 in Munich and then finished runners-up to Italy in 1982, based his assessment on what he has seen in the new generation of players over the last eight years in the FC Bayern Youth Cup tournament.
"I see great improvement in the young Indian players from 2008 (when the tournament was introduced in India) to now. What I have seen today was very good level (of football) as compared to all other countries where I am training," said the FC Bayern Munich legend in an interview.
Breitner is in the city to witness the semifinals and final of the pan-India Under 16 tournament being held on Sunday.
"I expect that besides China, India also will become a great football nation. (But) it will need 15-20 years. You need two or three generations but I am convinced that football in India will become a very important and good one.
"If you ask me why, the answer is the Indian people have some movements which are different from others, like your hockey team – they use body feints – which is outstanding," said Breitner who was part of the German outfit that also won Euro titles in 1972 and 1980.
Breitner, among a handful of players to have scored a goal in two World Cup finals including the score-levelling penalty in the 1974 final against The Netherlands that Germany won 2-1, said the way forward was for Indians to be trained by top European coaches or by those Indian coaches who are, in turn, tutored by overseas coaches.
"Indian players will become very good if they have the chance to be trained by good coaches. This is the most important thing which you have to think about and work upon," he said