The All India Football Federation was on Wednesday assured of all help by the government as well as FIFA as far as hosting and successful conduct of the Under-17 World Cup in 2017 was concerned.
The world sport was the talk of the town as all the stakeholders got together to discuss the way forward for Indian football, which also witnessed a MoU being signed between AIFF and Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) here. (Also read: Grassroots not Indian Super League Should be Focus for India, Says FIFA)
"If India wants to be strong, it is through building football in the country, you have to start from grassroot U-15, U-17. Holland and Spain also laid a lot of emphasis on youth development. The support of the government is very crucial. It's a partnership between national association, clubs, government and FIFA," FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said.
He added: "We support Indian football a lot, we need your support, we are committed to our support to Indian football and the Under-17 World Cup is an example."
Sports secretary Ajit Sharan too said the government is trying its best to push Indian sports, especially football, forward.
"Through a national sports talent search scheme, young talent will be identified and provided specialised training. Initiatives like these will lend strength to the ecosystem, especially football. Sports in India is looking forward," Sharan said.
Sharan though felt that sports federations should also look beyond the government to generate money.
"Out of 54 recognised federations, no one is making an effort to get money, that's not fair. There are other resources apart from government."
Talking about the government's other sports-related plans, he said, "We are in the process of identifying 40-50 vocations which are connected to the game, children need alternate career paths and not all can be great footballers."
AIFF general secretary Kushal Das said the AIFF has signed a four-year strategic plan with FIFA.
"About the four-year strategic plan, the focus is on the youth and grassroot level and this will set the tone for development of football in India," Das said.
Valcke said: "We have signed a strategic four-year plan, but change will take time. ISL is working with Indian FA and FIFA. It will take time to move up... It was pleasing to see yesterday's ISL game, stadium was full and the atmosphere was amazing."
Das said efforts are on to develop the game in rural areas.
"We do have a scouting team in villages. There had been efforts to try and tap talent in rural areas."
Talking about soccer, Valcke said, "Football is a way of life, it is beyond a game. Cricket is a great sport, rugby is a great sport but they are all regional sports."
And as far as legacies of U-17 World Cup were concerned, Valcke said, "Main legacies will be the facilities that remain after the World Cup. There is a need to work on more pitches and grounds in India. There will also be new stadiums, new level of public transport."
"There will be interest from all teams that are coming. You have to promote yourself, this is a good platform," added Valcke.