Pointing out that Indian football is hampered by the lack of a proper structure, former French star Bixente Lizarazu insists that every small town in the country should have a comprehensive system, including local clubs, to produce players.
The former left-back, who was a member of the French squad that won the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 Euro Cup, also said countries like Brazil have produced successful footballers who started playing in the streets.
“You need structure everywhere in India, structure of club may be at school… so, may be, you can play football in school,” Lizarazu, who was in the country as the brand ambassador of Bayern Munich Youth Cup 2018, told IANS in an interview.
“You have to organise classes, have a club everywhere, in every town, even in little towns, or a lot of clubs if the town is big, that is the way to have better football players.
“If you look at South America, Brazil in particular, they are playing on the streets; they don’t have incredible talent, they learn football on the streets,” the 48-year-old added.
Lizarazu, who has won the Champions League for German football giants Bayern Munich, criticised the present system which has the I-League and Indian Super League (ISL) running simultaneously.
Instead, he insisted, India should emphasise on having only one professional league, but with more clubs.
“From my point of view, it is better to have just one league, powerful with 10 teams or 12 or 15, I don’t know what is the potential of India regarding that,” the six-time Bundesliga winner said.
“Like in France and Germany, they have one top league — not two top leagues. Spain has one top league. And why I say that the league is big because all the teams will see the matches and they will want to be like the players.
“If they don’t see good teams, good players with lots of fans, I don’t think they will be interested. So the league must be attractive for young Indian boys and girls. So, it is important that the top level is very well organised,” Lizarazu added.
Lizarazu said India had done the right thing by hosting the U-17 World Cup as it will motivate the youth to take up the game.
“It is good because to organise football in India costs a lot, not every country is able to do that. It’s good to start with youth teams,” he said.
“You can have fantastic matches and players, it can also give the kids in India motivation to play football,” he added.
Lizarazu also felt that the current French footaball team lacks experience, but still has the calibre to reach the semi-finals at the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2018.
“The weakness for France is inexperience. I expect France can be in the top four,” Lizarazu said.
He also said rising Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappé is the best player in the present French squad.
“I like him; he is quick, good dribbling, he is quite good in front of the goal, we have a lot players like that — (Kylian) Mbappe is the best one we have and we also have (Ousmane) Dembele and (Kingsley) Coman,” he opined.
Talking about French football great and his former team-mate Zinedine Zidane, Lizarazu said: “He was very calm and relaxed, was under control; and it was incredible because he was scoring everywhere.
“He was an amazing player, shy but loved to do the talking on the field.”