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India must have structured growth plan in football for youth, says German great Oliver Kahn

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German football legend Oliver Kahn on Friday said more than idolising role models like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, Indian youth needed a structured system to take the country’s football forward.

“This is what I felt when I came India, (that) people love football. They are very emotional, it is in their hearts but also, a big motivation to go on,” Kahn said during an event at a promotional event here.

“Youth development is the most important, (to have it) structured, that you know exactly when you start at 6-7 years of age, what is the exact way or what do I have to do to come to professional club,” he added.

He said there was nothing wrong in having role models but what would ultimately take Indian football forward is to have home-grown talent.

“When I started as a youth football player, I had big role models and they gave me orientation,” he said.

“There are players like Ronaldo and Messi or Gianluigi Buffon who are real role models — this is very important — but why not develop your own Indian players and Indian role models?” he asked.

Kahn said India also needs to develop its own talent in terms of coaching in order to grow.

“The most important thing is that you develop your own strength, your own coaches. Maybe you can get help from outside but to develop your own coaches, you have to develop your own Indian style, your own philosophy, and that’s where maybe we can help.

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“But the development of something special must always come from inside the country,” he said.

The legendary goalkeeper played his last professional game in India in 2008 at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata for Bayern Munich against Mohun Bagan, and fondly recalled his final outing.

“It was a fantastic moment for me (to see) so many Indian people and fans, (but) it (also) was not an easy moment for me because I was a little sad — it was my last game after 20 years, two decades being a goalkeeper,” he said.

“Every time when I see the pictures on the screen, it is also very, very special moment for me because it reminds me of my youth,” recalled the 54-year-old.

Kahn also remembered landing a dream opportunity to play for German football giant Bayern Munich as their No 1 goalkeeper.

“It was a long time ago that I was a young guy and had a big dream. I wanted to be a professional football player, but I was not as talented as the other guys of my age,” he said.

“I had to develop something very special, a special kind of willpower and never give up spirit and very strong work ethic,” he said.

Talking about the first phone call received by him offering to join Bayern Munich, he said, “A big man named Uli Hoeness told me ‘Hi Oliver, do you want to come to Bayern Munich as our No 1 goalkeeper?’ “And my first reaction was that someone was joking with me on the phone,” he recalled.

Kahn, fondly called ‘The Titan’ for his exceptional performances as a goalkeeper at the biggest stage, remembered how he had to work hard to reach the top.

“When I was 14 or 15, this is not an easy time for anyone, I remember my coach said to me that ‘you are not good, you are a good goalkeeper, but you will not be a professional goalkeeper.’ “And that was a very important moment for me because I would never give up on my dream because of one person saying that. I felt that I was good enough with my work ethics, and so it motivated me to keep on working even harder,” he said.

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