Interview with Rio Ferdinand and Robbie Savage: Indian kids need a hero to look up to in football
Former Premier League footballers Rio Ferdinand and Robbie Savage are currently in India, as part of a campaign by The Supporters Club, a charitable initiative by British broadcast giant BT Sport in an initiative to support football amongst the youth.
Ferdinand, a Manchester United legend, had earlier partnered up with The Supporters Club through his own charity, the Rio Ferdinand Foundation. Both Ferdinand and former United academy graduate and current Premier League pundit Savage, are ambassadors for BT Sport who enjoy a healthy relationship with Arsenal.
The Gunners have a strong presence in India through the India On Track initiative - Arsenal Soccer Schools programme, which operates in over eight cities in India.
Ferdinand and Savage visited an Arsenal Soccer School’s centre, located at Pathways School, Gurgaon, and conducted an exclusive training session with young footballers. That was followed by a match between two teams trained by IOT - Arsenal Soccer Schools.
Here are the excerpts from the exclusive interview with Sportskeeda.
How do you think the IOT initiative will be helping Indian football?
Rio Ferdinand: I think it’s the coaching. We’ve seen the coaches are very good and enthusiastic with the kids. I think, me personally, being here is just great for the culture – to understand that football is a way to get kids out of the house for fitness and if you do have the talent, you’ve got a platform here with the coaching and the network to push you.
I met one of the boys here they believe will go on to better things and they’re grooming him. This is a great place with decent facilities to do that.
We were talking about how important that is if India wants to have an association with football and for it to grow, they need a star player to come out and go into Europe.
To be that guy that kids look up to. They’ve got [Sachin] Tendulkar in cricket and they need one in football, and that’s important. They’ve got to invest time, effort, enthusiasm and money to do that.
Robbie Savage: I agree with Rio. What these kids need is a hero to look up to in football. They’ve got Tendulkar and brilliant cricket players but if one football player can make it to Europe, these boys can look up to that hero and aspire to be like him.
What is your role in this? What exactly is the purpose of your visit?
Savage: I think it’s to just come and see the foundation. We’re going around India with BT to look at the project that BT and The Supporters’ Club have invested their time and effort in. It’s our first day and this is the first project we’ve visited and for me personally, it’s been an unbelievable experience.
We’re going after this to see a girl’s netball team which is also going to be a brilliant experience. We’re going around till Friday and it’s just BT and The Supporters’ Club really.
What is the importance of having UEFA qualified coaches?
Ferdinand: It’s massively important. That’s the problem we’ve had in England. We’ve not had enough coaches qualified at the top level. If the coaches are not qualified at the top level, how are you going to produce top level players?
It’s like school, you need the right information going into the players for them to be able to produce and match the talent.