India senior team coach Stephen Constantine has warned that India risk wasting "hundreds of crores" if the players featuring in its U-17 team don't find regular game time after the tournament is over in October.
India will be playing in its first ever FIFA World Cup at any level being the hosts when the U-17 World Cup is staged on their home soil in October. While football fever is slowly gripping the country, the English coach has a few warnings for the authorities.
"The important thing for these boys is what happens next, and that's my concern. What happens to these boys after the World Cup? What will they be doing in November and December? Who will sign them? They will be signed, but will they play? And then you have hundreds of crores down the toilet because these boys haven't played," Constantine told reporters at a press conference in Mumbai on Friday.
"There is a World Cup in India and every one is thinking about it. But what happens to them afterwards? That's my question. We need to make sure that these boys have some sort of pathway. It's the same for the U-19 team as well," he added.
India are placed in a tough group in the World Cup comprising USA, Ghana and Colombia and will face an uphill task of making it to the knock-outs. It will be a crucial experience but most importantly this group of players need to continue their development after the tournament is over.
Constantine though has been known to give opportunities to younger players before and claims to have given over 100 youngsters a debut so far in his career. His most recent Indian side that's slated to take on Mauritius and St. Kitts in a tri-nation tournament, features 10 players from the U-23 squad.
"I am an advocate of giving young players more opportunities. The thing about giving young players a chance is not to do it just for the sake of it. It's because I believe that they have something to offer. As soon as they'll show they don't have anything to offer, then they'll go," said the English coach.
Constantine informed that Sandesh Jhingan will lead India in the tri-nation tournament in Mumbai, recalling how he introduced the the defender as a youngster into the side a few years ago.
"Sandesh was one of such young boys few years ago. He is now the captain of the national team for Saturday's game. That process should continue. Now there are other young boys who are looking to take Sandesh's place and so on and so forth. And that's how it should be. As long as there is quality, balance and the determination, then I think one's a good player," stated the 54-year-old.
Speaking of his own journey from a youngster to being the captain of the national side, Jhingan stressed upon the importance of having strong grassroots.
"When I came into the national team I was a young boy. Coach put me in the national side and along with me a few more players like (Rowlin) Borges and others. From that squad there were many young players and if you have seen the progress that the national team has made, I think it's a great step," Jhingan said at the press conference in Mumbai.
India's young stars featuring in the U-17 World Cup will thus hope to at least catch the eye of Constantine if not the top scouts from around the globe during the World Cup. If the mega event at home is able to give India a Jhingan or two, then it will be worth the effort and maybe even the hundreds of crores which Constantine was referring to. View More