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"Star power" in Indian football - the other side of the story!

Debjit Lahiri
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 22 Nov 2012, 15:18 IST
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The call for injecting star football players into Indian football teams have often gathered momentum over the past few years. In fact, going for players who are perhaps past their prime but are still known names to the “huge” European football following community in India, sounds an ideal plan to divert a few eyes into our very own starving brand of football.

After all, a similar model has been followed successfully in the past, most notably in the US-based Major League Soccer, in middle-east Asia, Australia and now most recently in China. These so-called ‘star players’ not only increase the following of the game as a whole, but are a safe bet for the clubs themselves, as the players in return would add to brand value of the club and would then generate a potentially hefty revenue for them in form of merchandise sales, club memberships, match attendances and so on. Not to mention, the footballing credentials that a well known player adds to the team in the first place!

So when Dempo SC secured the signing of former Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur player Rohan Ricketts, one believed it was a ‘step forward’ in the quest to add star value to the I-League. In fact, the signing came in the midst of several “high profile” transfer links in Indian Football – with Dempo themselves being associated with many of them(they had signed former World Cupper Denzil Theobald a year before), Kolkata based Prayag United confirming the transfer of star A-League player Carlos Hernandes and fellow Goan rivals signing the former Malaga youth player Angel Guirado.

However, just months into his spell at Dempo, Rohan’s angry outburst on his Twitter profile today just revealed how things may not always be ideal for a big name signing in a country like India. Ricketts claimed that the club authorities had apparently told him that ‘his game and style of play is too advanced for his team mates and he must thus bring his level down.’

Now this statement by the Dempo authorities, if at all is true, is quite bizarre and yet at the same time on a closer look, slightly meaningful.

Firstly, one can understand the club’s way of thinking. Rohan undoubtedly is a class above the rest of the lads – so his process of thinking runs a tad faster and effectively than any other player in the team. That then means that it could well lead to a lack of co-ordination – say Ricketts has already anticipated a run which probably his mates couldn’t; or perhaps he plays a ball into an area, but the other players couldn’t reach a point where they could anticipate the ball into that particular area – and hence the break in play and the total mismatch in the overall style of movements on the pitch.

So, the club authorities understandably want him to play a simpler game, until his team-mates and him finally reach a wavelength where they can work together as a cohesive unit and understand each other’s play.

However, now most importantly, Ricketts too makes an equally, if not more, valid point. What he makes of the whole situation is that it is indeed quite bizarre that you sign someone because they are different and of a higher level and then to tell them to lower their footballing intellect so that they can adapt! According to him, he came to help uplift and make them step up the quality of football and coaching at the club, and not certainly for them to ask him to decrease his own level. The point being, if you sign someone to increase the standard of your team and the league, then why do you ask him of all people to decrease it again? Doesn’t that mean sitting back and once again accepting the so-called mediocrity in the league? The very purpose of signing him in the first place is actually completely flushed down the drain!

In fact, the so-called higher level of thinking is nothing but basic football knowledge and isn’t it fair to ask the other players to enhance their knowledge rather than asking an already better player to decrease his? After all, basic footballing knowledge isn’t rocket science!

So now, once one analyzes the both sides of the coin, on a wider perspective, a bigger question dawns upon the footballing fraternity here. Are we actually ready to inject star power into Indian football? Is Indian football itself ready to do so?

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Going by this incident, one feels it is time to concentrate on developing our own players to a certain level first and then use to catalyst of “star power” to take Indian football to the next level. An inappropriate injection at the wrong time, much like in medical science, would do nothing but mess things up; cause a mismatch of epic proportions; as quite evident in this particular case!

Published 30 Oct 2012, 18:56 IST
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