NEW DELHI: All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Government of India, and Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju for putting “more focus” on sports which has helped the country see a “quantum jump” in overall Indian sports.
“Of late, we have seen a major change in the approach from the Ministry (Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports). Our Prime Minister himself has been an avid sports enthusiast, he has given a lot of focus on sports. Besides that, the lack of enthusiasm towards sports has largely been corrected by Rijiju. Indian sports have seen a quantum jump in the recent years,” Patel spoke during the AFC Asian Cup 2027 bid announcement programme in New Delhi.
Rijiju, who was also present on the occasion highlighted the importance given by the government to sports and he assured the apex body to support the bid from every single aspect.
“Our Prime Minister Modi is a sports-loving person and the ‘Khelo India’ initiative, under his leadership, has seen great success throughout the country. In Asia, it (AFC Asian Cup) is the most prestigious tournament. It’s a well-thought-of decision and from the government side, I assure him that we’ll give full support,” Rijiju assured.
“Personally I always support any kind of initiative. This is going to be one defining moment for India and we’ll be an apt candidate to host the AFC Asian Cup which is very critical. That’s why I have come personally to extend the full support of the government. It will give the nation the confidence that the government is backing the bid.”
Furthermore, he mentioned that it’s not only the Government but also the “citizens” who need to take responsibility in order to make India a truly sporting nation.
“Citizens play a big role in making an event successful and India is no different,” the minister averred. He even referred to the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 when people thronged to the stadium in New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Navi Mumbai, Kochi, and Goa.
“I have always stated that if India needs to emerge as a sporting nation, football needs to play a major role in it. Football is the most popular sport globally. As the sports minister, my target is to galvanise the nation,” he continued.
“But you need to understand that the Government has its own limitations. We need to involve the citizens. If they participate, success will follow. We have seen people filling up the stadias during the U-17 World Cup in 2017. If we don’t give due space and recognition to the athletes, they don’t become superstars. We need to do that.”
Besides India, Asian heavyweights in the likes of Saudi Arabia, IR Iran, and Qatar have also submitted their bids for hosting the prestigious tournament and Patel foresees a fierce competition ahead in order to clinch the hosting rights.
“Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Saudi Arabia have also world-class infrastructures. But, we don’t consider ourselves less formidable against them. We are looking at it aggressively, positively as we truly believe that it’s possible. The government does get involved when major tournaments are to be hosted. I’m happy that Rijiju has joined us today to give credibility to the bid that India is putting forward. Under the leadership of our Prime Minister, India is definitely growing globally,” the AIFF President, who also is an integral member of the FIFA Finance Committee, mentioned.
“The Sports ministry has paid great interest to sports infrastructures. After the FIFA U-17 World Cup, we have quite a few facilities in the FIFA and AFC standards. We have floodlit stadiums even in tier-II cities. That’s a major change thanks to the sports ministry. Rijiju has offered all the federations to use the SAI facilities, earlier it was not the case. The entire Indian Super League is being staged in Goa. I-League will be hosted in Kolkata. Moreover, every team is using top-class training facilities,” he elaborated.