FIFA U17 WC: "Expectations are high and rightly so," says AIFF president Praful Patel

AIFF president Praful Patel admitted there are high expectations from the Indian team ahead of the U-17 World Cup and hoped that the side continues as a well-knit team in future.

AIFF president Praful Patel also announced that the present Under-17 team would continue to play as a team and would be participating in the I-League from the coming season, in a manner similar to what the Pailan Arrows did a couple of years ago.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

All India Football Federation president Praful Patel is both relieved and excited. A day before the Under-17 World Cup kicks off here, Patel is finally assured that things have gone as well as they could have in the run-up to the tournament.

He is now more concerned with the development of this team beyond the present tournament. “Expectations are high from the Indian team perspective, and rightly so. We are hoping that they are able to take the next big step for Indian football and to reassure that they are going to continue as a well-knit team in future,” Patel said in a select interaction here on Thursday.

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The present Under-17 team, he announced, would continue to play as a team and would be participating in the I-League from the coming season, in a manner similar to what the Pailan Arrows did a couple of years ago. “Everyone realises that realistically we are in a very tough group and acknowledges that it would be fantastic if India makes the next level but what we are looking at is a spirited performance. They would be rewarded and compensated, paid well and looked after as one consolidated team,” he said.

A venue for the proposed National Centre for Excellence and other details would be clear by the end of this month, he said, adding that planning for the the next Under-17 batch would begin by January 2018 while this one graduated to the Under-20 level. “India is being looked at very positively. While hosting tournaments is not a one-stop solution to developing the sport, it is one of the things that creates excitement and brings focus.

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“FIFA giving us a million or two doesn't give the same impact as hosting a World Cup does. That is why we are keen on pushing our bid for the Under-20 World Cup in 2019. The original plan for the Club World Cup was to bid for the 2018-19 but now we are looking at 2020-21 to keep the momentum on from here on,” he said, adding the AIFF was also looking to host the Asian Cup in the next 2-3 years.