Nwankwo Kanu: At this age, India has to enjoy the game and have fun

Jul 08, 2017, 08:15 IST | Kashinath Bhattacharjee

"When Maradona left the scene, the whole world was thinking about what will happen to football in Argentina. But we got Lio Messi and we all know what he had done

Nigeria's Kanu. Pics/Suresh Karkera
Nigeria's Kanu. Pics/Suresh Karkera

"When Maradona left the scene, the whole world was thinking about what will happen to football in Argentina. But we got Lio Messi and we all know what he had done. Similarly, Argentine football has a rich tradition and will continue to produce brilliant footballers even after Messi," said a confident Esteban Cambiasso before the official draw of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India yesterday.

Cambiasso was reacting to the fact that the Argentine footballers of his generation had not won trophies as a nation since 1993 and their failure to make it to the U17 World Cup.

Argentina legend Cambiasso (left) with India U-17 coach Matos at the FIFA WC draw yesterday
Argentina legend Cambiasso (left) with India U-17 coach Matos at the FIFA WC draw yesterday

Disappointed, he is. So is Nwankwo Kanu, the winner of the trophy in 1993. His Nigeria had to qualify to defend their title won in Chile in 2015. Their countries will not be there, but for both Kanu and Cambiasso, the stage is set for India to show the world their worth as an emerging football nation.

For the budding Indian U-17 footballers, Kanu had a little advice to have fun while Cambiasso advocated for enjoyment! Kanu said: "At this age, they have to enjoy playing the game and have fun. Yes, they will have to train, work hard and should not leave anything home, rather bring everything to the game — their energy, skill and fighting spirit. There will not be any second chances and any tomorrow. They have to make the country proud. If they can qualify for the knockout, it will be a great start for them."

For Cambiasso, playing for the country is more of an honour than a responsibility. "The onus will be on them to play for the country and play well, especially in front of their countrymen. But above all they have to try and enjoy it while on the field."

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