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Praful Patel: 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup will redefine Indian football

Praful Patel

Praful Patel

Even as the entire country has gone euphoric after India won the bid to host the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, Praful Patel (President, All India Football Federation) isn’t willing to be in a celebratory mode. The real challenge, he stressed, “lies ahead.”

Speaking at the first official media interaction organised by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) since India won the bid to host the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, Patel told a packed house: “Winning the right to host the U-17 FIFA World Cup in 2017 was a lesser challenge. The bigger challenge of actually hosting the showpiece lies ahead.”

“We have to make sure that the success of the tournament is in line with the development of Indian football in the long run. It’s not only about the rankings, we have to ensure football is the No.1 sport in the country and for that to happen the platform has been laid,” added the AIFF President.

Patel further stated: “It will be a landmark event for India which will redefine Indian football from now on and for many more decades to come. At AIFF we have always maintained that grassroots is the only way forward and for the sustainable future of our football we need youngsters to train in the best environment. This is the ideal motivation for all the youngsters, the drive to push them for the ultimate.”

Asked about the preparation of the national team which will represent India in the youth tournament in 2017, Patel said that the best of the best facilities and care will be given to the boys who will don the national colours at the coveted event.

“We may convert one of our Academies into a team dedicated for the U-17 World Cup in 2017. We will send youth teams to more exposure trips abroad to have a feel of how the top countries around the globe play. As far as the venues are concerned, we will not compromise as we are in no position to do that. FIFA is very strict with venues and only the best stadia will host the World Cup.”

“Natural turfs will be preferred to artificial ones and the State Associations must get their act together from tomorrow,” he opined.

India got the better of Ireland, 2010 FIFA World Cup hosts South Africa and Uzbekistan to get the final nod from FIFA’s Executive Committee during its meeting at the Sauipe Hotel in Salvador de Bahia in Brasil.

“It was not an easy task. Getting the guarantees from the Government of India and convincing FIFA that India indeed does have the ability and is serious about hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup was tough.

“I am thankful to FIFA that it has recognised India’s determination and persuasion to give it to India ahead of many other contenders.”

The President also announced that there will be a dedicated team working for the FIFA U-17 World Cup both on and off the field. “We have to have a decent team playing in the World Cup. For that we will be having a dedicated team working with the boys. There will also be an Infrastructural Committee with a nominee from the Government as well. Infrastructure is of paramount importance.”

The youth showpiece which is contested by 24 teams will be played in six venues which are to be shortlisted from eight cities namely Delhi, Goa, Bengaluru, Pune, Kolkata, Mumbai, Kochi and Guwahati.

The AIFF President also confirmed India’s interest in hosting the FIFA Club World Cup in the years 2015 and 2016. “We will be bidding to host the Club World Cup in 2015 and 2016. An official communication has been made. I will be visiting the FIFA Headquarters in January 2014 to further push our case and I believe we have a good chance,” Patel informed.

“The Airtel I-League clubs should work on their Club Licensing Criteria and treat is very seriously if they are to play at the international level. The game is played professionally and treated commercially at the international level. It is but obvious that the I-League champions will get a chance to play in the Club World Cup if we host the event. But for that, the clubs need to put their best foot forward and fulfill the Licensing Criteria.”

“If we are able to host the Club World Cup along with hosting the U-17 World Cup, there will be a certain paradigm shift in the way the game is played and looked upon in the country.”

Meanwhile, Nita Ambani has congratulated the AIFF and Praful Patel for winning the bid for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup. “Heartiest congratulations to Mr. Praful Patel, President, AIFF and other office-bearers of AIFF and all other stakeholders of football in India. Let us make a happy nation and a better world through this competition and let us all enjoy achieving this, together,” her statement read.

“IMG-Reliance is committed to development of football and hosting the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup will build a vibrant ecosystem that will provide the much needed impetus to the game of football in the country, and will set the stage for talents to blossom and football to flourish.”

(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)