NEW DELHI: The All India Football Federation President Praful Patel on Friday claimed infrastructure in the country has been raised to international standards for next month’s U-17 World Cup, a step towards making football a pan-India sport.
He said that the successful hosting of a tournament of such stature and the Indian players rubbing shoulders with the best in the world could attract the youth of the country to take up football in a big way.
“For a country like India, the priority remains to make a mark on the World stage and the FIFA U-17 World Cup hosting rights could not have come at a better time. The very fact that our boys will be getting a chance to rub shoulders with the best of the world is amazing,” Patel said.
“The overall infrastructure of the country has been improved to be at par with the international standards, which will benefit Indian football immensely,” Patel added.
The AIFF president then explained why he feels that the tournament will raise the profile of the sport in the country.
“Hosting a tournament of such stature will also help galvanise the face of Indian football among the masses and youth of India. With the U-17 World Cup taking place, the popularity will surely grow and the mission of making football a pan-India sport will be realised,” he said when asked if the tournament would bring a football revolution in the country.
Patel, who has been at the helm of affairs for more than eight years, said that India is ready for the mega-event starting October 6.
“We have had the Local Organising Committee (LOC) in place and the team has been working tirelessly to keep everything in order. I am extremely thankful to the Government of India, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, FIFA and all other stakeholders for their support right from the time we bid to host the event.”
The AIFF chief said that the Indian Under-17 team has also prepared well for the October 6-28 tournament and the boys have promised him to give their best on the field.
“In our effort to field a competitive team for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, the AIFF has provided the best of exposure for the preparation of the team,” he said.
“The boys have been training together for over four years now and have travelled to various international exposure tours all over the World playing friendly matches against national teams, clubs and participating in many youth level competitions.
“They (the boys) are a positive bunch. I had a detailed chat with them and their confidence level struck me. Under Coach (Luis Norton de) Matos, they stay aware of the challenge and they promised me that will fight till the final whistle. I wish them all the best. It’s time to stand up for Indian football and back the blue,” said Patel.
The former Union Civil Aviation Minister said a successful hosting of the Under-17 World Cup could be a precursor to India getting the hosting rights of the Under-20 World Cup.
“I think hosting the U-20 FIFA World Cup will be the next logical step for the development of football in India. With India hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 this year in October, we feel hosting the U-20 World Cup would be the best way to sustain the footballing momentum in India.