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Euro 2016: Why India has a reason to celebrate Wales' qualification

In various interviews, Neil Taylor has often confessed his admiration for the culture of sports in India.

Neil Taylor
Neil Taylor is proud of his Indian heritage

Welsh footballer Neil Taylor did his country proud after Wales thrashed Russia three goals to none to top their group and qualified for the next round. He scored the second goal in the whitewash the match turned out to be.

Another country proud of this defender from Swansea would be India. The 27-year-old has often proudly proclaimed his Indian connection revealing, in the process, that he loves visiting his family in India. In an earlier interview to Goal, Taylor revealed “My mother comes from Calcutta and I have close family both there and in Delhi. I have visited my aunts, uncles and cousin several times when growing up and love the country.”

The funny thing is that he has been going through a period of not scoring goals for his club and has not scored for Swansea since 2010. Currently, Neil Taylor is the only British Asian to play in the Premier League. His parentage allowed him the opportunity to play for either Wales or India.

In a conversation regarding his Indian connection, Taylor sounded hopeful of India's increasing chances to create a name for itself in the global football scenario. He said that India, as a country, has more than enough infrastructure to organise a FIFA World Cup, "There is no reason why there shouldn't be a World Cup in India - if Qatar can stage it so can India,” he says,"Football in India is becoming much more developed and the vivid colours and culture of the country would make for a really distinctive event. It is a country with the infrastructure to support a World Cup as it has proven with cricket.”

Recently, the FA addressed the particularly rising concern of the under-representation of Britons of Indian, Pakistani or Chinese heritage. Neil Taylor, however, remains optimistic that his position in the English Premier League may serve as encouragement for the next generation of footballing talent from the country.

Football has a large following in India

Football has always held a special place in India, especially in states like West Bengal and Kerala with football greats like Pele, Diego Maradona and Oliver Kahn visiting the country. With ridiculously low rankings, as attested by FIFA, the road to India being relevant to football is a long one.

Nevertheless, with global attention to the country courtesy of tournaments like the Indian Super League, the process of rebuilding may have begun on a minuscule level. The ISL, since its inception, has managed to attract quite seasoned international players which helped in piquing an interest in the sport throughout the country and it has made the world take notice of India.

At a press conference in West Ham's Upton Park in 2015, Taylor took it upon himself to explain the lack of Asian talent in the Premier League, something that seemingly baffled the FA. The Swansea star stated that Indian parents are predominantly academic minded, often forcing children to concentrate on studying more than anything else.

“Growing up, and from what I know, for people of Indian origin, education is the number one priority. All parents will drill their kids to be education-based, with your dreams put to one side to what will get you through life and get you a career,” he was quoted saying.

The concern is certainly a major one. Given the cut-throat competition that is currently prevalent in India on the academic front, the evolution of sports in the country has certainly taken a backseat. Furthermore, the sport that attracts the maximum attention is cricket with other games pushed to the sidelines. Lack of proper government funds and infrastructure has been detrimental to the wholesome development of sports in general in the country.

Recently, 17-year-old Yan Dhanda grabbed a few headlines in the country after becoming the first player of Indian origin to sign a professional contract with Liverpool. The youngster has already trained under manager Jurgen Klopp and, if things go well, may soon be receiving a breakthrough to represent the senior squad.

Taylor, meanwhile, stressed on his belief on the vast pool of untapped talent he believes is present in India. According to him, hosting a major footballing tournament would be good for the country. “It would bring football in India along in leaps and bounds; a bit like the 1994 World Cup has done for the USA,” he said.

The fan following of football in India is quite extensive. Hopefully, in the near future, the country will find sufficient talent to equal its enthusiasm.

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