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Wenger to help ‘sleeping giant’ India develop football talent

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will work with India to develop football talent as the sport’s national federation attempts to overhaul its “identity and philosophy”, the organisation revealed on Saturday.

India, once called a “sleeping giant” of football by former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, are 106th in world rankings and struggle to grab public attention in the cricket-obsessed country.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has struggled with governance issues and was temporarily suspended by football world governing body FIFA last year.

Fresh elections followed in September and the AIFF is now eyeing big changes with the help of 73-year-old Frenchman Wenger.

“We will have a data driven scouting system in place for the national team,” secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran told reporters on Saturday.

“We are going to work on this project with FIFA and Arsene Wenger is personally going to devote his time.”

Wenger is currently working for FIFA as its head of global football development.

AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey did not specify Wenger’s exact role in the talent development programme but said the excercise would be key to making India a football powerhouse by 2047 — the country’s centenary of independence.

“We are not going to sell dreams,” he said. 

“We have to build the foundations of a strong structure and build our own identity and philosophy.”

Croatian Igor Stimac has been India’s head coach since 2019.

India hosted the Under-17 World Cup in 2017 and the women’s edition last year.

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