By Aritra Chowdhury
Mumbai–Ranked 163 by the FIFA, India is not shining in world football now, but it can change if children are encouraged to take up the game with an aim to participate at the highest level, says former Portugal star Anderson Luis de Souza, also known as Deco.
In an interview to IANS, he said a beginning can be made by way of futsal — a variant of football played in a smaller field, indoors — which will help the children with their skills.
“I think first you need to give a chance to the children to play. That’s why futsal is so important. Futsal is important if you want to be a professional footballer. Futsal will help you a lot with skills. The key is to give opportunity to the children to perform, motivate them to play and show them how the game is played,” Deco told IANS.
Deco, the former Chelsea and FC Barcelona star, who at the start of his career played futsal, pointed out that playing the five-a-side version would help youngsters learn the skills which they can later implement in football.
The 38-year-old, who has won the UEFA Champions League with two clubs — FC Porto in 2004 and FC Barcelona in 2006 — was roped in as a star player for the world’s first-ever multinational futsal league, Premier Futsal, which will be played in India across eight cities from July 15 to 24.
“It is amazing to play futsal. I started playing the game when I was seven years old. Premier Futsal has given me a great opportunity to make a comeback into the game and play it. I started with futsal and later played football. And now I can get back to futsal, so it feels great,” said the Brazil born-footballer who played for Portugal as attacking midfielder or central midfielder.
Premier Futsal is expected to see over 50 international players from 21 countries participate in this variant of football which is split into two halves of 20 minutes each.
Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kochi, Hyderabad and Goa are the eight Indian places which will have franchise outfits in the inaugural season.
“Futsal is very easy to play. You can play it anywhere. You can play in an attacking way and score lots of goals. I think for the skills involved in it, Indians will live this game,” Deco said.
Just months before the start of the inaugural edition, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) had opposed Premier Futsal and said it was considering legal action against the league.
AIFF general secretary Kushal Das earlier said that the federation has planned to come up with its own futsal league in the country.
When asked whether this controversy will affect the image of the futsal tournament, the 2006 FIFA Club World Cup Golden Ball winner opted not to make any comment.
“I don’t know exactly what are the things happening surrounding Premier Futsal. I have come here to enjoy and play futsal and not think about what’s happening outside that because it is not my business,” he said.
Deco, who had earned 75 appearances for Portugal and represented the country at two European Championships and two World Cups, believes that reigning Euro Cup champions Spain are the favourites to win the title for the third straight time.
“I hope Portugal wins it. But I think the favourites at the moment are Spain, Germany and Italy who are playing very well. Belgium can be the dark horse and even Wales. It is very early to say, but for me Spain is playing the best football at this moment and they are the one,” he said.
Deco, who announced his retirement in August 2013 following a hamstring injury, stressed that Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi follow different styles and both are best at their own game.
“They (Ronaldo and Messi) both are good. They both are different players with different styles, and they both are best players in the planet at the moment,” Deco concluded.