India Sports
Wake up 'sleeping giant', FIFA chief tells India
Apr 16, 2007 - 7:58:45 PM

New Delhi, April 16 - The need of the hour for Indian football is good administration, infrastructure and popular support if it wants to turn into reality the dream of playing in the World Cup, FIFA chief Joseph Blatter said here Monday.

'We need good administration, infrastructure and support from the social and cultural part of society if India wants to play in the World Cup in future,' said Blatter during an interactive session organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry -.

'In India we need economic support for the development of the game. We don't want a sponsor in India because it will give an impression that football is taking and not giving.

'An economic support should be on a give and take policy. Corporate bodies should invest in teams in cash and the teams should return in value in kind and help the companies to market their products.'

He said that if these things are pursued then India - that has never played in the final rounds of the World Cup - could well play in the finals by 2018. India currently ranks a lowly 165th among 208 football playing nations.

'The development target in India should be for four years and that has to start now. I think in future we will see an Indian flag in the final round of the World Cup. But it is a long way, but it is a way which is possible.'

Blatter, on a four-day visit to India, arrived here Monday morning from Kolkata and called on President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at Rashtrapati Bhavan. In the evening, he called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat.

Mohammed Bin Hamam, president of the Asian Football Confederation -, was however critical of Indian football and said that 'with the existing set up India can never progress even in the next 100 years'.

'In India and all over Asia we have an amateur set up. In fact Asia is the No.1 continent at amateur level but not at the professional level. But football what we are dreaming of that will take India to the World Cup is professional and not amateur,' said Hamam.

Hamam also said that the existing Vision India plan would be extended to Tamil Nadu and Sikkim.

The FIFA chief also said that the world body has a lot of international tournaments lined up in future and would be glad if India gets the chance to host even one.

'We offer you a platform and you make your own choice. I wonder when the AIFF will have the infrastructure to host one of the several tournaments that we can offer, not possibly the World Cup.

'If it happens it will create a lot of enthusiasm in the country. And in football enthusiasm is what you need,' said Blatter during his first official visit to this country which ranks a low 165th in global football rankings.

He also said that if the All India Football Federation - approaches them then the FIFA could send a small group of world class footballers who will tour the country at length and will act like professors.

The 71-year-old Blatter said that football has a long history in India and commented that the country is a 'sleeping giant' in football.

'It is being played from the time when FIFA was not even born. India is a sleeping giant and wake it up not for morning classes but for the world level,' Blatter concluded.

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