New Delhi: Former Liverpool and Barcelona midfielder Luis Garcia Thursday said for Indian football to improve, a player of Sunil Chhetri's calibre should be actively involved with the national team even after he hangs up his boots.
The 40-year-old Spanish winger, a Champions League winner with Liverpool and who has also turned out for Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, called Chhetri a "special player".
"He is there now and the rest of players look up to him, you need someone, you have to have an idol and here in India you don't have many," Garcia said.
"At this stage, the passion for football in India is growing. So, follow him, he must be a mentor in the next two-three years. We know he is still playing but when he retires, he should be the player who is next to the national team and be actively involved.
Garcia, who once represented Indian Super League franchise Atletico de Kolkata, felt it is imperative for ISL to strike the right balance between foreign recruits and domestic players.
He said the Spanish players' foray into other top European leagues such as EPL, Bundesliga and Serie A in the last decade went a long way in helping the country win the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the Euro two years prior to that global triumph.
The way Spanish players gained in exposure by playing elsewhere and bringing their philosophy into Spain, the ISL could also benefit Indian football by attracting talent from abroad.
"But it is also to give domestic players enough chances. They have many good domestic players now and it shows that ISL has helped Indian football," Garcia said.
The FC Barcelona Ambassador was speaking during the unveiling of the Barca Academy Asia-Pacific tournament.
Garcia said, "India has got tremendous talent and I am glad to see so much footballing action in this country. Grassroots football helps develop great players. A tournament of this scale reassures players of great opportunities. It also works as a catalyst to create the infrastructure needed to nurture the talent."
The tournament will see 48 teams from Australia, Japan, China, Spain, Singapore and India competing against each other in categories under-9, under-11, under-13 and under-15, with over 500 players participating.
There will be two teams from Spain - in U-11 and U-13 - competing....