India football needs to create its own heroes, says John Abraham
India has to groom local footballers rather than hiring ageing global stars, John Abraham said (AFP file)
Shillong - Abraham is the owner of Indian Super League (ISL) franchise, NorthEast United FC
Published: Tue 22 Aug 2017, 3:37 PM
Last updated: Wed 23 Aug 2017, 2:07 PM
John Abraham, one of the biggest names in Bollywood and owner of Indian Super League (ISL) franchise, NorthEast United FC, believes India has to groom local footballers rather than hiring ageing global stars if the country really wants to progress in football.
"I honestly believe we need to create heroes in our own country. I think that is very important. NorthEast United FC could be any other team tom-toming about big signings, but that is not going to be our focus. Our focus is to create our own heroes," Abraham said.
"I would like at least 70 per cent of my players to come from the first team. I think it is very important for us to develop our own home-grown players and own home-grown heroes," he added.
The model-turned actor visited the club's Centre of Excellence in Meghalaya's capital Shillong.
However, Abraham said his club will sign some international talent, but not the 30-plus stars.
"You will see a lot of those signing in the ISL and you will see a 36-year-old legend being signed. But we are looking for 24-, 25-year-old boys even if they are international boys," he said.
"Our coach Joao Carlos Pires de Deus believes in fast football, young football and very physical football. It is not about winning the ISL tomorrow, but it is about having a long-term vision," he added.
Noting that Shillong is the hotbed of football in the northeast and northeast is the hotbed of football in India, the NorthEast United FC owner said: "Having a strategic partnership in Shillong in terms of grassroots and having the youth coming in to play is important and that is why we have signed a developmental deal with them (Shillong United). We feel that being in Shillong is very, very advantageous for us.
"The Shillong premier league is the most progressive league here and a lot of players are playing 20 to 33 games, which is fantastic and which I don't think we would get anywhere else in India. We are in the right place and at the right time."
Stating that his club and Shillong United FC's vision is to have their own football infrastructure in Meghalaya, Abraham said, "We want the Centre of Excellence to be the go-to place not only in Meghalaya but in the whole of India. Even if there is a kid from Bombay and if his parents aspire to see him become a footballer - I think we have to create that system where they say if you want to do it you have to go to the Centre of Excellence in Shillong."
On his future plans of setting up a women's football team, Abraham said, "That's something we have on the cards, but our first aim right now is to get an under-13 team. We will take one step at a time. Right now, we are not equipped to go so fast and we cannot go fast; Rome was not built in a day. But whatever we do we will do it right."
Congratulating Indian women football team skipper Oinam Bembem Devi, who has been recommended for the Arjuna award, Abraham said, "Better late than never. Hats off to her that she got it and I congratulate her. I really think that women's football needs to be recognised. I wish we can develop women's football in this country. At the NorthEast United FC and at the Centre of Excellence we want to co-develop young girls as well as boys."