Opinion: Should India use FIFA game to improve football at the grass-root level?
The game of football is a simple sport and nowhere so at the nascent stage i.e. at the youth level, where a child instinctively knows to put the ball into the net. The so-called football fraternity in India especially the coaches and ex-footballers tend to worry too much on how successful teams of yesteryear were formed and played rather than looking forward and taking lead from technological advances and modern tools.
Today's generation don't live in the same era where Indian football legends Chuni Goswami, PK Banerjee, Neville D'souza or even Krishanu Dey grew up in. In those days fields, lanes and even by-lanes were filled with football enthusiasts playing the game. With the change in time, today's generation may not show the same amount of enthusiasm hitting the fields, but that doesn't depreciate their passion and excitement towards the game.
One should not forget that they have easy access to technology due to greater freedom of expression and exploration online. The invention of football video games such EA Sports's FIFA, Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer (PES), Nordeus's Top Eleven Football Manager etc. has given kids pick up the complexities and elaborateness of the sport at a very young age.
By the time they are in their pre-teen, they know all about different types of team formations & combinations, different footballing terms, player names and the necessary attributes that make a good player. Among these games EA Sport's FIFA in particular is arguably the most popular and widely accepted football game across the globe.
Nowadays modern coaches across Europe, North and South America and East Asia, are taking help of the FIFA game to train their players. The FA has introduced coaching courses which include unconventional methods of teaching football.
At Level 2, coaches are expected to connect with the social environment of the young players away from the footballing pitch, which includes video games like FIFA. The gaming technology and its features aid the coaches to connect with their young players easily. The budding players too are in sync with the different terminologies and technicalities due to their easy access of the game.
The FIFA game shows them the analytical, technical and tactical side vividly in a way that was not possible a generation prior. Different gaming modes like 'Manager Mode' or an 'Ultimate Team Mode', allow gamers to put specific players in different positions of the field depending upon their strengths and attributes.
A faster player with better dribbling attribute is usually deployed as a winger whereas a more robust physical player with high stamina and tackling attribute is generally stationed as a central defensive midfielder(CDM) playing close to the defensive line. It is a gaming tool which can make a person with zero understanding of the sport to a fairly knowledgeable one (at least theoretically) in regard to its tactics and structure.
Coaches themselves use it for a better understanding of the game, working out different team formations and tactics. Many high profile coaches across the globe have made FIFA game mandatory for both their youth football and even for the senior teams. Playing FIFA game is encouraged worldwide to improve footballers.
Although football in India is constantly challenging cricket in regard to its popularity, still India is yet to make any notable inroads in world football post-independence. But the passion for the game amongst Indian fans can easily challenge any of the top ten ranked football playing nation. Yet the skepticism and apathy amongst the Indian football fraternity to embrace technological advances, is inexcusable.
The crux of the matter is rather than underestimating it as a kids game, coaches in India should take advantage of the brilliance of the gaming technology as an easy tool to make the youth learn football. The coaches should be innovative in their methods which are easily familiar with the kids. Our children are already playing these games, hence we should enthusiastically embrace their knowledge and use it to make them to become superior players.