Infantino: I have a feeling that India is a football country

“I am happy with how the FIFA Under-17 World Cup has been perceived by the population here,” the FIFA president said.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino (left) and AIFF president Praful Patel share a light moment during an interaction with media at the FIFA Council meeting in Kolkata, on Friday, on the eve of the FIFA U-17 World Cup final.   -  PTI

"Forget cricket, football is the future.”

That was FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s clarion call, though said in jest, to Indians.

Terming India’s hosting of the under-17 World Cup a grand success, Infantino expressed his faith in seeing a football revolution here soon.

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“The tournament has been a resounding success with some records already broken. India is a continent and not a country with one-sixth of the world’s population living here. Now, I have a feeling that India is a football country,” the FIFA head said. “I am happy with how the World Cup has been perceived by the population here.”

Basking in the glory of a successful hosting of the World Cup, Praful Patel, the AIFF President, termed the junior world competition as a “renaissance” moment for Indian football.

“This tournament has been a renaissance for Indian football. It has been the most successful U-17 World Cup so far,” Patel said. “The number of people flocking to the stadium to cheer for all teams is a matter of great satisfaction. It shows people in India, especially young India, wants to follow good football. It’s a reflection of changing times. We need it to continue this momentum and, for that, we need to host another major tournament (2019 FIFA under-20 World Cup) to keep the aspiration and the interest alive. The hosting of this World Cup has been a great learning example and I am happy that we have delivered good infrastructure.”

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Infantino reiterated FIFA’s support in the growth of football and expressed happiness about the game’s growing interest in the country. “India is a sporting country, and now there is a passion among Indians to embark and invest in football,” he said. “But it is not just about a competition, it is about working with boys and girls and to make them play football and then teach them the values of football, which propagates respect for rules and opponents. If we (FIFA) take our task of developing football seriously then we have to support and promote every good activity undertaken across the globe.”

The FIFA president, however, refused to weigh in on India’s bid to host the 2019 Under-20 World Cup. “There are a lot of elements that need to be looked at while awarding any association the hosting rights. But we will, of course, keep in mind India’s successful hosting of this World Cup when we decide on the venue in March next year.”

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