Leading German coach Michael Weiss has shared his valuable insights on Indian and Asian football in general, and some of the challenges that the sport faces in this region in an exclusive interview.
And Weiss knows what he is talking about. Not only has he coached in Japan, but he has managed the Philippines and Mongolian nations sides, as well as taking charge oi the Chinese under-23s and Rwanda’s under20 side, also serving a spell as that country’s technical director.
A goalkeeper during his playing career, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Sports Science and Management from the University of Mainz, before beginning a coaching career which included internships with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Real Madrid, River Plate and Bayer Leverkusen, as well as managing in club football in Romania.
Weiss believes that Asian footballers are at a disadvantage compared to their European counterparts because the same structures are not in place to support their development. Consequently, it is a necessary pre-condition of any young player from the region who wants to succeed that they possess a strong will and determination and are dedicated to the sport.
However, those countries where leading clubs from Europe have established academies offer a lifeline because they provide aspiring young players with the coaching and playing opportunities that they would not normally be able to access in domestic football.
“It is very difficult, but not impossible, especially if there is a right system in place that European scouts can use as the main starting base”.
One of the key challenges though is finding top European and South American coaches who are willing to relocate to developing markets, and who are prepared to cope with the challenges that living and working in such markets present.
In terms of India, although areas like Goa and Kolkata are viewed as hot beds of local talent, what is lacking currently is the right coaching, particularly at youth level.
“I think India still have a deficit in regards to youth development”.
According to Weiss, it will take both massive investment and time to get this right, which is a major reason why he thinks no Indian team is ready to challenge for, let alone win, the AFC Champions League.
He also believes that whilst it is necessary to recruit more foreign players and coaches into Indian football to raise the standards, it is important to ensure that those who come have the right attitude. They must be prepared to work with and help develop local talent, not just view it as another pay-day opportunity.
India needs” European players with international experience and a good mindset, not having focus just on “income””.
However, he offers hope to Indian football by suggesting that Japan may offer a blueprint for how it might be developed. Twenty years ago, the professional game there was dominated by foreign coaches who came first from South America, and then Europe.
Now though, although there are still foreign coaches in Japan, the Japanese Football Association prefers to work from within, focusing their attention on domestic coaches, and educating them so that they can take the lead in future.
And he also points to what is happening in China, which he predicts will become a major power in the game in the next 10 to 15 years. There, the support of the country’s president, Xi Jinping, who himself is a football fan, has been key to the development of the Chinese Super League and the national team as well. China changed and improved their football structures from the ground up and now they are starting to reap their rewards.
Andy is an exiled English football fan living in Cyprus. He loves all sports but football is his abiding passion, and he still has dreams every now and then about scoring the winning goal in a Wembley Cup Final, even though his playing days are long gone. He follows most major leagues, across Europe at least, and has a favoured team in each. When he’s not watching, listening, reading or downloading podcasts about football, he spend his time worrying about his beloved Arsenal.