National team strikes a blow for Indian soccer
The Dallas Morning News
By Corbett Smith
FRISCO - In India, cricket is king.
But IMG Academy soccer program coach Tom Durkin and India's U15 national team is doing its part to end that - or at least chip away at cricket's dominance.
The national team advanced to the quarterfinal round of the Under 15 group at the Dr Pepper Dallas Cup, defeating Chicago's Sockers U15, 1-0, on Wednesday. The other teams in their bracket tied, sending the Indian U15s through.
"In India, it's only cricket," team captain Myron Medes said. "We want soccer to go up - so we can be ready for the FIFA World Cup. That's what we are preparing for."
Advancing was an impressive accomplishment for a team without its leading goal scorer, Uttam Rai, and its first-team goalkeeper.
It's even more impressive considering the hurdles the players have dealt with over the last eight months, from homesickness to language barriers to changes in diet.
"It took them a while to get used to everything," Durkin said. "Culturally, I'm sure it was shocking to them."
Durkin, a former coach at Richland College and the director of the North Texas State Soccer Association from 1991 to 1993, heads the program, a partnership between IMG and India's Reliance Corp. The entire squad enrolled in the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for September.
Soccer is an afterthought in the nation of nearly 1.2 billion people. In the current FIFA world rankings, India is No. 146 - right behind Singapore, a country with less than 5 million inhabitants.
"We are in a major project overhauling the youth development system and launching a league - similar to things that happened in the United States," Durkin said.