New Delhi, Sep 23 : Colombia U-17 coach Orlando Restrepo has asserted that India needs a longer professional league and more regional tournaments in order to emerge as a force in world football.
"You know in a country as big as India, maybe you should have more tournaments, the local tournaments, more leagues because that will improve the level and you know, having a professional league and proper league. Not like a three months league that they have currently, that will help development of those players and improve quality," Restrepo told IANS at the sidelines of his team's training session here.
Colombia, who finished third at the South American U-17 Championship have set their eye on reaching the final at the FIFA U-17 World Cup scheduled to be held in India from October 6-28.
Colombia were fourth at the 2009 edition held in Nigeria which is their best ever finish at the U-17 World Cup.
"The main idea of Colombia is to be in the final and that's why they have worked hard and preparing the teams in order to reach the final. That's the objective of the team and that's why we are taking this seriously," Restrepo asserted.
Colombia are placed in group A with along with India, Ghana and the USA. The coach said he is not taking any of these sides lightly and his boys will have to be at the top of their game in order to reach the knockout stages.
"Every single team in the group is very good. That's why the preparation of the World Cup is taken very seriously in order to be fit and to play each of the teams. Every single team USA, Ghana and India they all strong team and we want to be ready," Restrepo said.
Although India have qualified for the U-17 World Cup as the hosts of the prestigious tournament, they are not being widely regarded as one of the favourites to advance from the group stage.
Restrepo however, is not ready to take the hosts lightly.
"There is no small team in a World Cup and football, every team is important and most important. Colombia is very happy since they arrived, they have been welcomed the people in India have been very kind and good to us and we are very happy to be here," he said.
Restrepo hailed Brazil, Mexico, Spain and France and said these sides are the top contenders along with Colombia to win the U-17 World Cup.
"Most of the teams who have reached the World Cup, you know they all have their merit to fight for the World Cup and there will be many teams that will be fighting and have a chance, specially Brazil, Mexico, Spain, France are very strong side," the Colombian coach said.
The Colombia U-17 team have qualified for the U-17 World Cup for the first time since 2009.
Restrepo credited changes brought about in his country's youth set-up and efforts by the Colombia federation to develop the talent emerging from the local leagues as the main factors which enabled his team to qualify for this edition of the tournament.
"We have been looking and working in the U-20s, the national leagues and the regional leagues for selecting the best talent in the country. After that we try to instill in them the same football style that has characterised Colombia. The football style that has been the hallmark of previous generations of Colombian footballers is what I have implemented in the team," he said.
The coach said his wards look up to senior Colombia stars Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez as their idols.
"All these young players, Falcao, James who played U-17, they were also U-17 Colombia national team players are the best example and mirror to achieve, what you want to achieve" Restrepo said.
(Samrat Chakraborty can be contacted at email@example.com)