FIFA has agreed a partnership with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) which will see it offer strategic and technical assistance in a bid to meet India’s dual objectives of hosting the 2017 Under-17 World Cup and achieving qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Wednesday’s announcement is the latest measure aimed at boosting the development of football in India and came on the same day that the national team dropped to 169th in the FIFA world rankings – its lowest-ever position. A FIFA delegation, headed by secretary general Jerome Valcke, is currently visiting India and the FIFA chief admitted the country is a key market for world football’s governing body.
“It’s mostly about management, strategy and technical development for the future of (Indian football),” said Valcke of the partnership, according to Indian news agency PTI. He added: “FIFA believes if there is one country in Asia that we need to focus, it is India. The U-17 World Cup would be a perfect milestone. The executive committee will meet on September 26 and 27 and then again in December. We have to receive all the files by September 26. We would ask the executive committee to let India host the U-17 World Cup in 2017. FIFA takes care of large parts of the finance, except the infrastructure for such tournaments.”
AIFF president Praful Patel said the FIFA partnership would form part of a 10-year development programme for Indian football, with the focus currently on the youth game.”We are committed to developmental projects and youth development is the focus area,” said Patel. “There cannot be a strong future unless we develop the grassroots. We had a discussion with Valcke and we all feel that the objective is to build the game at grassroots. Step by step we have been able to achieve some milestones, but there is still a long road for us.” Patel added that the AIFF retains an interest in hosting the 2015 and 2016 editions of the Club World Cup. He said: “It (the bid) has not been shelved, it is very much there. FIFA executive committee has to decide on the first tournament (U-17 World Cup).”