FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke has suggested that India ought to use the opportunity of hosting the 2017 under-17 World Cup to build the team to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

Addressing the media after a Roundtable discussion organised by the International Football Arena on Friday, Valcke noted that if all the stake holders worked together, with the government stepping in for infrastructure development — six world class venues would be required for the under-17 World Cup — the sport in India would be able to take meaningful steps forward.

The Roundtable, spread over two days, featured representatives of FIFA, AFC, English Football Association, German Football Association, Chesea Club, AIFF, Reliance Industries Limited, Dempo Sports, Shillong Lajong Club, United East Bengal and Hero Motors among others.

Valcke said that it was important to improve the I-League, and added that the clubs expect more support from the national federation.

A key market

He reiterated FIFA’s seriousness in developing Indian football, and pointed out that the setting up of the Development Office in the Capital was to ensure better focus on India and the rest of the region.

“India is a key market. We have a 10-year understanding with the AIFF. We share a long term vision, and will implement it,” said Valcke, emphasising FIFA’s whole-hearted approach towards making football a success in India.

He was particular about football spreading across the country — rather than remaining confined to some pockets — and the need to have infrastructure spread around to ensure healthy development. Agreeing that it was important to have deadlines for proposed changes and improvements, Valcke said that all structural plans to change the face of Indian football were in place, and stressed that FIFA was working together with all the stake holders; he assured that there was no conflict, and that there was no question of imposition.

Valcke also said that it was futile to compare the Indian scene with the English Premier League or European football. He said he hoped that the I-League would some day become something like the EPL.

The Chief Executive Officer of Chelsea Football Club, Ron Gourlay, said his club was committed to supporting Indian football, and taking it forward with a focus on grassroots development.

He said there ought to be concrete steps to leave a lasting legacy, rather than having short-term clinics.

Addressing the Roundtable, the AIFF president, Praful Patel, said that FIFA had words of praise forthe vision document ‘Lakshya’ the goal of which is to ensure an Indian presence in the World Cup in 2022.

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