Now that India had won the rights to host the 2017 under-17 football World Cup, the real challenge lay in meeting world standards, not only in the conduct of the event, but also in the performance of the Indian team, said Praful Patel, the president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
Addressing the media here on Monday, Patel said: “We have to make a success of it. Indian football needs it.”
He said the future of the game in the country depended on a sound grass-roots-level programme, and the World Cup would provide the necessary thrust and take the game forward in the right direction.
Acknowledging the involvement and commitment of all parties concerned, including the government which provided the required guarantees, for the successful bid, Patel remarked that the immediate task was for the State governments, which own most of the stadia around the country, to ensure world-class infrastructure to meet the stringent FIFA standards.
Though New Delhi, Goa, Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Kochi, Kolkata and Guwahati have been shortlisted as the prospective venues, the AIFF clarified that there was no obligation to have eight venues, and it was done mainly to spread the event across the country.
Patel said that stadia with natural grass would get the priority, but added that venues with high quality artificial grass, which FIFA is promoting, could also get the nod.
Patel revealed that the AIFF was keen to also host the World Club Championship in 2015-16, as a prelude to the under-17 event, mainly to speed up the preparations in terms of infrastructure.
He said that he would visit the FIFA headquarters in January to follow up on the subject.
He said the World Club championship would provide the thrust for the I-League clubs, and motivate them to raise their level, and added that all of this was being done along the lines of the Lakshya 2020 scheme, which aims at putting India in the 2020 World Cup finals.
Having watched the previous under-17 World Cup final in Abu Dhabi, Patel said that the standard of the game was very high, and that it was a treat to watch. He said that the event, when held in the country around October in 2017, would re-energise the game in the country, and inspire everyone to love and play the game.
Patel revealed that no expenses were being spared: Rs.95-crore had been allotted for infrastructure development, and there is a contingency fund of about Rs.25 crore.
He said that FIFA would take care of the expenditure related to hosting the event, and only infrastructure had to be readied to meet the high standards.
He also said that the development of football-specific stadia for the event would also serve in taking the game forward in the country.
The AIFF president assured that talent would be tapped from all available avenues and that a full-fledged programme, with adequate staff including coaches and managers, would be put in place in due course of time.