Bhaichung Bhutia, a former captain of India's national football team, believes that funding grassroots development is the only way to advance the sport in the nation. Footballers in the nation, regardless of age, should play enough competitive games, according to him, to be successful.
"You need to invest in the youth, grassroots development, and then the player and the club benefit out of it and that's how football grows in the country. This is the only way if you want to really take football forward in India," Bhutia told PTI on the sidelines of an event on Tuesday.
"We have to reach out to the kids at rural, district, and state levels. Sadly, we are not making them compete. Kids are not being able to train and compete within their own age group. That's been the biggest challenge." The illustrious striker also promoted the need to emulate European teams' investment in young talent and development of them into elite players.
"This model should be replicated by Indian football clubs. That's how you invest in grassroots. You are looking at grassroots very raw and then taking talent and training to become a really great asset for the club and the country, that's where the club also generates revenue," Bhutia said.
"A lot of clubs in Africa and South America get raw talent from the grassroots, train them and then sell them to big clubs in Europe. They go back and play for their country and that's where the country also benefits from the talent. "
"That's how football grows. This is the model which I really think helps."