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Under-17 World Cup can be dawn of a new era in Indian football

A sustainable grassroots programme is in place, Kushal Das says at Mumbai City FC Summit.

News 02 Oct 2017, 19:53 IST

AIFF Technical Director Savio Medeira, Deputy Chairman of Technical Committee Henry Menezes in conversation
AIFF Technical Director Savio Medeira, Deputy Chairman of Technical Committee Henry Menezes in conversation

Mumbai, Oct. 2: The Indian Football Federation believes that the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, beginning later this week in the country, can be a catalyst for the sport and wake up the sleeping giant called India.

In an engaging Grassroots Development Summit 2017, organised by the Mumbai City Football Club that saw top coaches and managers from Brazil, England and New Zealand share their respective country’s development programmes, India’s top football administers too exuded confidence about the future.

“Over the last three years, we have worked very hard with this Under-17 World Cup team and Indian football is on the threshold of some very good things to come,” AIFF’s honorary general secretary Kushal Das declared.

“October 6, 2017, 8 pm, will be a tremendous occasion for all of us when India playing their first World Cup match. Hopefully, it will also be the beginning of a new era for Indian football," he added. 

“We may lack behind on technique and technical aspects, but these boys are equal in terms of physicality, fitness and endurance, with the rest of the world. They will run their socks off on the field and will make us all proud,” AIFF Technical Director Savio Medeira said.

Top coach and Deputy Chairman of AIFF’s Technical Committee Henry Menezes was equally positive that the boys would pull off a surprise. “The Under-17 team is really lucky. It has been given more world-wide exposure than any other Indian team. This lot is the best of our next generation of players. With a little bit of host luck, and the entire country’s support, I think they are very close to pulling off a surprise in the tournament,” Menezes said.

“If that happens, it will change the entire football scenario in the country,” he added.

The Mumbai City FC’s Grassroots Summit is an important annual date in the country’s football calendar, where the country and the state’s top administrators get together to chalk out plans for development of talent at the grassroots level.

“If all of us can work as a team, we can create a sustainable structure for grassroots and youth development. That will help in the next 5-7 years to create a string mark not only at the Asian level but at the world level too. The good news is that money is flowing into the sport. And the government Mission11 Million is also a huge boost,” Kushal Das said.

Brazil U-17 team chief coach Carlos Amadeu and manager Raul Fachini, England’s U-17 World Cup manager Neil Dewsnip and New Zealand’s U-17 manager Simon Hilton were among the stalwarts who spoke about their respective country’s fascinating grassroots and development programme. 

Mumbai City FC’s head of Youth and Grassroots Development Dinesh Nair also made a presentation about the road travelled by the club so far and their ambitious plans for the upcoming season. The club has already bagged the best grassroots development award in the Indian Super League twice.

The AIFF is, interestingly, not looking at the World Cup and the Under-17 players as just a one-off thing though. “We have decided to pitch this team for the Under-20 World Cup as well. We are going to keep all of them together even after the tournament, add a few more from the Under-19 pool, and prepare them for the World Cup qualifiers in 2019,” Menezes declared.

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