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Exclusive: I-League 2nd Division has plenty of young talent- David Booth

Published at :May 2, 2019 at 3:49 PM
Modified at :May 2, 2019 at 3:49 PM
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Neil Talnikar

The former Grimsby Town player has had coaching stints with now defunct clubs like Mahindra United and Mumbai FC.

Zooming into the second-tier of I-League, Ozone FC have established themselves as the frontrunners for the title this season. A superb form in the preliminary stages saw them finish atop the group B, way ahead of second-placed Fateh Hyderabad.

The defending champions are on cloud nine since David Booth took over the reins as the head coach back in 2017. Recently, Khel Now had the opportunity to interact with the Englishman, getting to know his journey towards becoming a football coach, his days back in England and development of the sport in India.

Booth, who hails from Barnsley, studied at a certain Queen Elizabeth Grammar School which didn’t have football in its curriculum. Asked about how he developed an interest in the game, he said, “Although my school didn't have a football program I was always interested in the sport and understood it pretty well. Growing up I used to play in the local leagues where  I played for 10 years.”

The quality of football in the English Premier League has tremendously increased with the rise of foreign players, however, at the same time, the quality of the lower division league in the country has remained more or less constant. Providing a clearer view of the situation, Booth said, “They are miles apart both structurally and financially but you see a lot of local talent coming through these leagues. A common thing about football in England is there is cut-throat competition at all tiers.”

The 70-year-old represented Barnsley and Grimsby Town during his days as a player and has thus seen the development of football in the country from quite close.

“You also see a lot of talent coming through the smaller teams, for example, Jamie Vardy, Ryan Sessegnon, Andy Robertson to name a few. They do really focus on player development,” he added.

Booth began his managerial career with Grimsby Town but went on to spend a majority of his time in the Asian continent. He went on to describe his time with the national teams of Myanmar, Laos and Brunei as a good one, saying, “Good we improved at all levels despite being in the lower reaches of Asian football. I had a good set of players playing for me and giving it all out there. I definitely enjoyed my time there.”

Speaking about the footballing scenario particularly in India, he said, “Football development in India?  The Indian Super League (ISL) has still a long way to go when it comes to development.”


“The way I see it, development starts from grassroots. You need to teach them young. We are seeing bits of this in India but a lot has to be done still. The I-League is better in that sense but development in India is a long way off.”

Booth had brief coaching stints with former top I-League clubs Mumbai FC and Mahindra United but achieved great success with both. Throwing light on the football in those days to now, he says, “Yes, we had a good time with Mumbai FC. I feel football in India has changed with the introduction of the ISL. You can see money coming into the sport, new sponsors, marquee players, foreign coaches.”

Bringing into focus again his earlier point of development at the grassroots level, Booth went on to add that, “We are not seeing upcoming players on TV or from the ISL. For Indian football to develop, the ISL has to change certain things like fielding five to seven foreign players playing in the team.”

“Involving the fans into the sport. They need to make it a household name here in India. The only way for the future of Indian football is that every child grows up playing the sport.”

Furthermore, he also explained the difference in the level of football between second division and the I-League or ISL saying, “Second division is quite competitive and honestly younger players get the chance to play unlike in the ISL or I-League. We have in Ozone a lot of local players which I feel also pull the crowd on a matchday and develop the local talent. There are good players who have the potential to reach the highest level and play in top clubs.”

Proceeding towards the final stage of the interaction, Booth also gave his opinion on the ongoing fiasco between the two top tier leagues in the country. “I think both leagues are only interested in themselves but I believe they need to fix the management side quickly because this chaos and uncertainty is definitely not good for the players, fans and the clubs.”

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“Right now, no club in the I League or the ISL, I feel, is financially stable. All in all, I do not feel any of those administrators have the good of development of young players as their long term vision,” he concluded on a firm note.