New Delhi:AIFF acting president Praful Patel on Thursday refused to confirm or deny that he had approached former Indian Cricket Board chief Sharad Pawar for Rs 10 crore financial assistance from the BCCI for the national football team's preparations for the 2011 Asian Cup.
Speaking at a press conference to announce the draw of the August 19-31 Nehru Cup here, Patel said the AIFF was looking for money from all available sources for its 'Goal 2011 Project' but dodged a specific question whether he had approached his NCP boss for help.
"You have to ask (Sharad) Pawar for that. Moreover he is no longer involved with the Indian Cricket Board," he said.
"Of course, the All India Football Federation is looking for money from all available sources. We need money for the infrastructure development and for the general development of football. The Sports Ministry had also recently announced Rs 10 crore for Asian Games preparations.
"Corporate sponsorship is very important for the development of Indian football. We are in the midst of an economic downturn except for cricket sponsorship. We are looking up to the corporate houses for sponsorships," Patel, also the Union Civil Aviation Minister, said.
Patel admitted the limitations India has been facing in terms of football development but felt that the game in the country has begun a turnaround in recent years, citing the national team's qualification for the 2011 Asian Cup.
"India has a great fan following of football though it is not diffused uniformly throughout the country. We also have constraints of infrastructure and other limitations. In spite of all these, I think a turnaround has begun. We have qualified for 2011 AFC Asian Cup after 24 years. That is a milestone," he said.
"The team is in Barcelona for training. We are making all efforts to ensure fullest support to the national team in terms of top class coaching and training so that we continuously improve upon our FIFA rankings."
He also sought to dispel any doubts that the pitch at the Ambedkar Stadium, the venue of the Nehru Cup, would be damaged due to Delhi government's Independence Day celebrations.
"The tournament is delayed by a day and the reason is of course the Independence Day celebrations. We will ensure that the pitch is play-worthy and prepare it in a way to hold an international tournament."