Indian football needs better playing environment: Jofre

For Indian football to develop, the stress should be on creating an environment where players do not just enjoy the sport but are well aware of their tactical positioning, feels Spanish midfielder Jofre Mateu Gonzalez.

The FC Goa footballer who robbed Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) of a win by winning and converting a late penalty  on Sunday, said: “You need to have academies where children grow in a football environment.”

“It’s not only about practising and enjoying the game, but knowing a lot about being part of a team, a lot of skills and tactical issues which you must know in your (playing) position,” Jofre added.

Like many who have pointed out in the past that one of the major obstacles in the development of Indian football is children taking up the sport late, Jofre said they should do so when they are 5-6 years old.

“Starting from (a) young (age) is the point where Indian football can grow. You need children playing football when they are 5-6 years old,” the 36-year old former Barcelona, Levante and Espanyol player said.

On his assessment of Indian footballers over the three years he has spent playing in the country — Jofre was with ATK in 2014 — the product of La Masia, Barcelona’s famed youth academy, said: “For some you can see the difference between first (ISL edition) and now, and the new ones are not only players of the team but important ones too.”

“So it’s very good for the league and for the country. And my mates (Indian players at FC Goa), you can see they are improving every year.”

Jofre, who has played over 300 games in the second division of the Spanish League, pointed out the importance of off-field activities like nutrition and rest, which are as important as the on-field development.

Turning to the European scene, Jofre, part of the 1997-98 La Liga winning Barca team that had the likes of Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, Jofre said both Guardiola (coach of Manchester City) and Enrique (coach of Barcelona) are doing well within their respective setups.

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