As Indian football rejoices after winning the bid to host the Under-17 World Cup, former captain Bhaichung Bhutia said on Friday that the more difficult task for the country would be to put together a good team to compete in the mega-event and develop the infrastructure.
Thanking the All India Football Federation and the government for their efforts in getting the showpiece event to India, Bhutia hoped all stakeholders would come together for a successful tournament. "Now the work gets even more difficult. Hope all the concerned people, the state associations, clubs focus on grassroot development and youth development programme. We will have to ensure that as host we are able to field a good team that can compete with the best in the world," Bhutia told PTI on Friday.
Emphasizing the importance of having a proper youth development programme in place, Bhutia said it can't be ignored anymore. On a landmark day for country's football, India beat South Africa, Ireland and Uzbekistan in the fight to host the 24-nation biennial event. The decision to award the prestigious tournament to India was taken in FIFA's executive committee meeting in Salvador da Bahia in Brazil yesterday.
"This is the biggest thing to have happened to Indian football. We will be hosting a direct FIFA tournament for the first time. It's a big achievement and I thank the President of AIFF, the football federation and the government of India," Bhutia said. "By virtue of being the host country, India will take part in the tournament for the first time in its history," he said.
India has hosted the Asian Football Confederation's Youth Championships (Under-20) in 2006 and then the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008 but never any FIFA tournament. The dates of the tournament will be decided later. United Arab Emirates hosted the tournament this year while Chile will be the host country for the 2015 edition.