New Delhi: With the Under-17 World Cup slated to take place in the country in 2017, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) is tying up with a Brazilian club, Atletico Paranaense, for an exchange programme for the U-17 team.
Founded in 1924, Atletico Paranaense is a team from Curitiba in Parana, and has won the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A in 2001.
"To give exposure to the players, AIFF is tying up with Brazilian team, for an exchange program of the U-17 team," said Kushal Das, General Secretary, AIFF.
Das said a FIFA team will inspect possible venues for the tournament in November.
The federation is also planning to start U-15 youth leagues to augment the talent in its academies in Goa.
"We are hosting a Coca-Cola Cup for scouting players," added Das.
Addressing the question of popularising football as a profession, he said the need to build a competitive Indian team is crucial.
"The national team has to do well, only then will people be interested in football but it is going to take sometime. Football is a very competitive game. Unfortunately we didn't have a proper player development system which we are trying to change," said Das.
State associations need to become agile for the game to grow at the grass root level.
"State associations like Kerala and Mizoram have become active but there is a need to make others active. State associations need to develop," said Das.
Talking about the domestic football scenario, the AIFF is hoping that the upcoming Indian Super League would give it much-needed boost.
"The problem with Indian football that we were facing were visibility and money. ISL with eight strong franchises is bringing in money as well as visibility as the franchises are owned by celebrities," said Das.
However, the onus of marketing domestic football in India rests with the clubs. "The clubs need to improve their merchandising. ISL is meant to give marketing push but it is impossible for the federation to get into merchandising, it's upto the clubs," added Das.
To enhance the visibility of the game, AIFF has tied up with Star Sports, which will broadcast the inaugural ISL season in three local languages - Bengali, Malayali and Kannada.
"Sports broadcasters have used English as the medium. To increase local connect, ISL Season 1 will be broadcast in 5 languages- Hindi, English, Bengali, Malayali and Kannada," said President, (Ad Sales, Sports) Star India Rajeev Beotra.
"Santosh Trophy might also be shown on TV to make it popular," said Das.
Shirish Kulkarni, President of Liverpool International Football Academy - DSK Shivajians, spoke about infrastructure development.
"Infrastructure is not only about building stadiums but it is also about building academies at the grass root level. We don't intend to go to any other place than Pune but working with maybe these ISL teams are coming up, we would like to work with them to help them out at the grass root level, like the Pune ISL team. It all depends on how it all shapes up."