I was really happy. For all the hard work put in by Mr. (Praful) Patel and Mr. Das (Kushal) in getting the guarantees from the Government of India and convince FIFA that we are capable of hosting a Tournament of such a magnitude.
What does this mean for the future of Indian Football?
It is now up to us. The manner in which we can make the best of this golden opportunity will define Indian Football. I have always maintained that getting the FIFA 2017 U-17 World Cup would be a big boost for us. It’s a lifetime opportunity for the Footballers of tomorrow to rub shoulders with the best in the World. This will also draw a lot more eyeballs.
The AIFF President has maintained that the real challenge begins now. What exactly are the challenges from the Technical and point of view?
The biggest challenge is finding the best Players born on or after 2000 and training them in the best possible way. We need to provide them with Competitions and send them for exposure trips. India is a vast country with a lot of diversity so it will be quite a task finding the best talent from across the length and breadth of India. But we are committed at doing that and putting across a competitive team for the FIFA 2017 U-17 World Cup.
In short, can you chart out the work that needs to be done or is on your mind building up to 2017?
I need to sit down with Rob (Baan), Wim (Koevermans) and Kushal (Das) and map out the plan. We need to put our best foot forward and detailed planning followed by execution is required. We already have 26 boys in that age-group at our Regional Academy in Goa. Furthermore, we have scouted 28 boys from the recently concluded U-14 National Championships in Kalyani. So we have a base to work from with the current pool of 54 Players.
Are you looking at a bigger talent pool?
Surely! I would like to point out here that all stakeholders need to play an active part in the scouting process. The State Associations and the I-League Clubs need to focus on this age-group and organise more competitions and Camps for the same.
What is the plan with setting up of few more Academies ahead of the mega-event?
It will depend on the quantity and quality of Players. At the moment we have plans of opening at least one more Academy in this age group and take it from there. We need a strong scouting network as well to pick the best from every corner of the Country.
What about having a dedicated Team working only for this purpose?
Yes we will be having a dedicated Technical Team working on the squad which will represent India in the FIFA 2017 U-17 World Cup. I cannot reveal anything now as it’s too early.
What about the Stadiums?
Our boys train on both artificial and natural turfs so they can cope with both. The decision will be taken later on as to which of the turfs will be preferred though natural turfs will get the upper hand. We have to make sure that the training facilities dished out to the boys preparing for the FIFA 2017 U-17 World Cup are of the same standard as the playing facilities.
How much of an impact will hosting the FIFA 2017 U-17 World Cup contribute to the development of Indian Football?
It has all the makings of galvanising Indian Football if we live up to the expectations both on and off the field. The required standards of Infrastructure can lift Indian Football to great heights. I am hopeful all stakeholders will give their best in making this one first of a kind mega-event a blockbuster.