AC Milan's Leonardo says India 'much like' Brazil

Visiting Kolkata, India, with the AC Milan U-18 team as a goodwill ambassador as part of Fiesta Italia celebrations, Brazil's 1994 World Cup winning side's left back Leonardo de Araujo vividly remembers the 'saddest day" of his life. ''It was the only time I have seen a red card in my entire career and I regret that incident till today, '' Leonardo told reporters.

"It happened at the heat of the moment. I have grown as a footballer after that, but the sadness remains. It was not intentional," he said of the 4 July 1994 incident where he elbowed United State's Tab Ramos in the face.

Asked about Indian football he said it was was "much like that of Brazil" in that "there is a passion for the game and it can improve greatly ... You need to have more exchange programmes and more grassroots training. The other things will fall into place automatically,'' he said.

Impressed by the aggressive display by Bengal Colts, who sprang a surprise winning the match against Milan junior 2-1 (Rajib Ahmed and Lalkamal Bhowmick scoring for the winners), Leonardo said "India should go for exchange programmes like Japan did to succeed in world football".

Express India also reported that Leonardo, who himself spent over half an hour on the ground, had special praise for Bengal striker Ayan Chowdhury and said "even at their early twenties these boys are quite strong minded and passionate. They are very fast but need to restrain a bit sometimes to retain control over proceedings".

He said AC Milan will consider helping India improve its football standard. "We cannot confirm it, but will definitely consider to do something in future," he said.

See also: Bayern Munich discovers India in "South East Asia" Update (14 Nov)