ISL the guiding light that Indian football never had: Steven Dias
New Delhi: Indian Super League (ISL) is acting as the guiding light for home-grown footballers and helping them take giant strides to improve as professionals, subsequently developing the poor level of the sport in the country, Delhi Dynamos' midfielder Steven Dias said.
"The experience of playing in the ISL has been completely different than playing other Indian tournaments like the I-League and the Federation Cup. Here everything is organised and conducted in a systematic way," Dias told IANS in an interview.
"I always wanted to play abroad to improve myself as a professional. But ISL has given me the opportunity to do it in India."
Admitting the gulf between the ability of Indian footballers and the hired foreigners is starkly contrasting in the ongoing tournament, he said the biggest disparity that is visible to all eyes is in "the basic technique" of players.
"The foreign stars who are playing in the league all have undergone sound training to develop basic technique of ball trapping, shooting, passing and movement in their formative years. They have all come up through the academies of their home club or countries, something we Indians don't have the privilege of," he said.
He said the advent of the supremely promoted ISL has increased the awareness of the deficiencies that plague the most popular sport of the world in the second most populous country of the globe.
"Indian players need academies throughout the country. That will ensure a professional approach and infuse a method to develop a player from its formative years. During my initial stage I never had the opportunity to train in a professional set up of an academy," he opined, adding: "that there is also a dearth of educated coaches who is in tune with the intricacies of the modern game".
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has three academies that are presently operational - elite, a regional set-up in Goa and another regional foundation in Kolkata.
Dias' views come at a time when the parent body of football has decided to shift its Kolkata academy to Goa citing "high sustenance costs" having previously shifted its Bangalore and Navi Mumbai academies there.
The India international said that the ISL is giving them an opportunity to learn at a ripe old age what they didn't get in their tender years.
"The primary technique of these foreigners is so impressive. I am trying to learn as much as I can from them in training sessions. They are very helpful in showing us the correct way of doing things," Dias, who boasts Italian World Cup winner Alessandro Del Piero as his team-mate, said.
Having been one of the few bright Indian spots of the league so far, he expressed satisfaction at his own performance and credited coach Harm Van Veldhoven for it.
"The coach is always positive. He has encouraged me to express my attacking capabilities on the field. He also showed me how to balance my offensive play with my defensive duties. He has also rectified certain mistakes I committed during matches," the 31-year-old-said.
His own impressive form, though, hasn't helped his team begin their campaign on a bright spot, with Delhi stuck at the seventh spot among eight teams in the league table.
They have managed just a win in six matches so far and have six points from six matches but Dias is not too concerned about the standings.
He exuded confidence that Delhi will improve and qualify for the semi-finals and wrapped up the conversation by saying, "it is still early days. Initially we took time to function as a unit. But now things are looking up".