After being unanimously elected as the President of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) here on Tuesday, Praful Patel reiterated his commitment towards promoting football and making it the most popular sport in the country.

Mr. Patel, who had been working as the Acting President of AIFF till date, announced that former President of the body Priyaranjan Das Munsi had been made the Honorary President.

The AIFF chief lauded the Indian teams showing in various international tournaments. "Performances of the Indian team have been worthy of praise. Qualifying for the Asian Cup finals brought a new era for Indian football and with the Nehru Cup win the sport regained its lost glory. But there is a long road ahead and there are many challenges to meet," he said at a press conference.

Develop at grassroots level

Mr. Patel said the sport needed to be developed at grassroots level and financial assistance from the Sports Ministry as well as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) would help in this regard.

Mr. Patel informed that goalkeeper Subrata Pal had been chosen as the Footballer of the Year 2009. "He was selected for his marvelous performance in the Nehru Cup."

On the Indian team’s preparation for the 2011 Asian Cup, Patel said, “More commitment would be needed from the players and the clubs to make the players available for more training. (Whether it’s) any compensation or otherwise, that will be taken care of though the nitty-gritties have not been worked out. For this purpose we will use the Sports Ministry and BCCI money.”

Tournament like IPL

Mr. Patel said it was time to explore possibilities like introducing a tournament like the Indian Premier League (IPL). “A lot of interest is being shown in India at international level. People are thinking from long term perspective and not about just short-term gains. But the commercial interest should not overtake our primary interest (of promoting the game in India),” he said.

The chief coach of the Indian team, Bob Houghton, said since the 2010 calendar was too busy, an under-23 team and an under-19 side should be prepared to play tournaments like the SAFF Cup and SAFF Games.

He said it would not only decrease the pressure on the Indian team but also make the youngsters ready for bigger commitments.

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