FIFA has reiterated its commitment towards the long-term development of football in India and stressed that the 2017 under-17 World Cup would be a big boost in this regard.

FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke inaugurated the FIFA Development Office here and signed an agreement with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) President, Praful Patel, on Wednesday.

As per the agreement, FIFA will provide strategic and technical assistance for the development of the sport in the country.

Underlining India’s target to make it to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Patel said: “We have a 10-year development programme called ‘Lakshya’ and it contains the roadmap for Indian football.”

Bigger goal

Valcke said staging the u-17 World Cup would help India achieve its bigger goal of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. “We would ask our executive committee to let India host the 2017 u-17 World Cup.

India can make use of the u-17 World Cup to develop its infrastructure. This will give a chance to develop Indian football,” said Valcke during an interaction with mediapersons.

“What we will do is work with the AIFF to make sure that you have a strong structure, so that you play in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. That is the real objective,” Valcke said. “FIFA believes if there is one country in Asia to focus on, it is India.”

Nevertheless, Valcke clarified that FIFA had no intention of making money from the country.

“We are not looking at return and investment. We have good finances. We are not here to pick up money and run away.”

Patel optimistic

Patel was optimistic about the future of the sport in the country.

“Indian football is poised to take a big leap after years of hibernation.

“FIFA has gone out of its way to see that India emerges as a strong football nation.

“Sepp Blatter (the FIFA president) had come here a few months ago and Valcke’s visit (now) demonstrates FIFA’s commitment to the development of the game in the country.”

Patel thanked FIFA for granting assistance to lay eight artificial turfs in India and requested the world body’s support for a few more.

He said India was eager to host the u-17 World Cup and the bid document for this purpose was almost complete.

The bidding process is likely to be completed before the end of this year.

Patel said the country was also keen to bid for the 2015 World Club Championship.

On India dropping to the 169th slot in the latest World rankings despite its win over the higher-placed Cameroon in the Nehru Cup final, Patel said the tournament was not part of the FIFA calendar.

However, he acknowledged that the country needed to play higher ranked sides more often in order to improve its world ranking.

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