A strategic plan for Indian football has been presented on October 15 by FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke and by Praful Patel, President of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
The plan establishes how the AIFF should work towards the development of football. “India is the priority country for FIFA in Asia in terms of football development,” Valcke explained at the launch of the strategic plan. “We are investing a lot in this country because we believe in its huge potential. It’s a fast growing economy with 1.2 billion people. There’s definitely space for other sports than cricket.”
AIFF President Patel spoke about the historical day for football in India: “We are ready to change our structure. With FIFA’s help, we’re able now to implement a complete development structure. With the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017, we will have a milestone for football in our country and it will be a real help four our development.” FIFA, the AIFF and the country’s national authorities have already been working closely together for some time, with various programmes and activities having been set up and implemented.
The FIFA delegation, led by Secretary General Valcke, met Indian Minister of Youth Affairs & Sports Sarbananda Sonowal on October 14. During the talk FIFA and AIFF asked the Minister for more support for Indian football. “We need the support to develop more infrastructure,” Valcke said. “We need more pitches, and we need more ways to give all Indians the opportunity to play the sport in the country.
“This is crucial for the development of football in this huge country. I’ve had the strong feeling that the minister understood our message and I’m optimistic the Indian government will give its support with regard to the FIFA U17 World Cup 2017 and also many years after this competition. This may seem like a simple measure but it is a crucial one in terms of encouraging Indian youngsters to play football.”
In the evening of October 14, the FIFA delegation attended an Indian Super League (ISL) game, a goalless draw between Alessandro Del Piero’s Delhi Dynamos FC and David Trezeguet’s FC Pune City. The FIFA Secretary General was impressed by the enthusiasm of fans in the stadium. However, he also warned the AIFF: “The ISL, for FIFA, is not a league but a tournament. We recognize the I-League as the official championship of India. The ISL with all its stars helps also to develop football in India, but we must make sure that we are all together with one goal – to develop football in India and help India play in the World Cup sooner.”
Secretary General Valcke also met business leaders in India and he made a speech at the headquarters of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM). The AIFF and ASSOCHAM signed a memorandum of understanding, ensuring a strong collaboration between the AIFF and the leaders of business and industry. Jérôme Valcke thanked everyone on FIFA’s behalf: “With this commitment to football you give important support. With the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017 we will have a kind of kick-off. India will be able also to have other FIFA competitions in future with the help of the government and the Indian economy.”
Valcke said India, once described by FIFA President Blatter as the “sleeping giant” of world football, will receive a boost when it hosts the U-17 World Cup in 2017. “We wanted to do whatever we could to promote or help the development of football in India,” he explained. “We have given India the responsibility of organising the Under-17 World Cup, which is a huge project. I feel that a lot of will is there and this gives me confidence. I’m really satisfied about this trip to India.”