Piet Hubers: The most important thing is to bring football closer to the people

As the fourth edition of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) looms large, the teams and players are gearing up for another fiercely competitive season. Ahead of the same, team officials also attended the ISL Youth Workshop held in Vashi, Navi Mumbai a few weeks ago. At the workshop, we caught up with Piet Hubers, ISL Grassroots Technical Director, to talk about all the work going into grassroots development.

Hubers was crystal clear about what, according to him, should be the process to improve that brings about development in youth football.

“It’s about engagement and willingness to improve. What’s very important in my opinion is that coaches who are involved with youth football development must stay for a short while - at least only a couple of years - then you must improve yourself and you can improve the programmes.”

He further elaborated, “The clubs that have changed their coaches and managers a couple of times must learn about this. So, for the future of the club, it is much better that they keep them longer in the club.”

Hubers also pointed out the kind of infrastructure that would help improve the quality of Indian football.

“It’s about facilities and not (just) quality of facilities. We can realise the availability of more grounds so we can cooperate with schools and government to hire grounds where we can play small games. We don’t need full-size pitches. Of course, we need some, but for a target (age) group of 6-12 years, we need grounds to play small-sided games like five versus five or seven versus seven.”

So how much of an impact can football potentially make on the Indian audience?

“I think that the performers of the national team have an impact on the popularity of the sport, but in my opinion, it’s not the most important one,” Hubers admitted.

He also offered a solution for the same.

“The most important thing is to bring football closer to the people. We should realise facilities, good crowds and good programmes, with great leagues through which we would be able to provide structured programmes all through the year.”

Hubers also lauded the effort the ISL is making with these programmes to help in the development process.

“I think the ISL benefits the grassroots a lot. We control the programmes, we support them, we have a policy, and besides the policy, the club can also own activities that are specific to the DNA of the club. In general, the ISL can guide the clubs in their pathway for development.”

Shedding light on how the grassroots initiatives came into being and what the future plans for the same are, Hubers said: “We started in 2014 with just grassroots festivals so that everyone was aware that an ISL club is not only a club that just plays for a few months,” he recalled. “We sold the message that grassroots football is a very important part of every ISL club.”

“Now we are building it up, not only with festivals, but with grassroots leagues and elite football. If we have a decent grassroots system in every ISL city, then we can spot the right talent for the next step. In 2018, we start with the quality youth academy in the ISL clubs, which will be the build-up for the next few years,” he said as we concluded our chat.

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