PK hits out at FIFA LOC for ignoring former India footballers
(Eds: Adding reaction from the FIFA LOC)
Kolkata, Oct 21 (PTI) The legendary PK Banerjee today said it's an insult to Indian football that many top former players like Shyam Thapa, Prasun Banerjee and Subhas Bhowmick were not felicitated during the FIFA Under-17 World Cup opener in New Delhi earlier this month.
He also hit out at the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for adopting a 'lottery system' to distribute tickets among former footballers.
FIFA LOC later in the evening clarified they followed a "clear" criteria and the football fraternity should have been proud of the initiative.
The LOC further said that distribution of the complimentary tickets is the "duty" of respective state associations.
"About complimentary tickets for former players, an allocation has been reserved at all the venues for former legends of the game and are being handed out to the state associations," the LOC said.
"It is the duty of the state association to identify the former players and hand them out tickets for the matches," it said adding that Kolkata has 85 tickets per matchday given to IFA.
"It is solely the decision of the state association how they are distributed and who gets them," it added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had felicitated the greats of Indian football including Banerjee, IM Vijayan, Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri, Bhaskar Ganguly and Bembem Devi.
"It's a huge loss of faith for Indian football community. In cricket we all know about the star players. But footballers are habitually ignored. How will the football's popularity grow if such is the attitude," Banerjee said at a news conference at his residence, on the eve of the high-voltage Brazil-Germany quarterfinal.
Banerjee mentioned the names of his brother Prasun Banerjee, Shyam Thapa, Arun Ghosh, Subhas Bhowmick, Mohammad Habib and Sudhir Karmakar and urged the LOC to felicitate them during the final here on October 28.
"I'm not naming Prasun just because he's my brother. He was one of Asia's top footballers and the first Indian footballer to enter the Parliament. If someone as notable as Prasun is ignored, you may think of others...
"What would be the motivation left for the next generation to sacrifice all their lives for the sake of Indian football? I'm saying this not just for the sake of Bengal, or the country but for the entire youth community who are taking up football."
He also said it's shameful that the LOC is distributing tickets with a lottery system for the final.
"It's truly shameful that the stars of yesteryears are given tickets by a lottery system. Of course the common people deserve to watch the final but one must never forget the past and the contribution of these former footballers," Banerjee said.
A couple of hours after the news spread, the FIFA LOC said there was a clear criteria for felicitation of players for the small ceremony on October 6. Only those footballers whop have captained Indian teams in a senior or U-23 Continental Championship or Olympic Games were honoured in New Delhi.
"All players who met the criteria were invited to New Delhi.
"It's important to note that this is the first time in the history of the FIFA U-17 World Cup that an LOC has taken the initiative to felicitate former players of the host country as a part of a ceremony at the stadium," the LOC said.
"This was done as an extremely special case and the whole football fraternity in India should be very proud of this step, as Indian legends were shown to the world and the past of the game was honoured