Constantine: 'ISL has put India on the football map'

The ISL saw an average attendance of more than 20,000 last year, just shy of those in Italy’s Serie A and Ligue 1 in France. A fact reflected on the streets and pitches of India with "more young kids playing football than ever before".

Constatine thinks that the upcoming U-17 World Cup could help provide the platform and momentum to progress in football.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Indian national football team coach Stephen Constantine, now in his second spell at the helm after rejoining in 2015, has credited Indian Super League (ISL) for the rise of football's popularity in the country.

“From 2002 to 2017 there has been a difference. The starting of the Indian Super League has put India on the map, due to the coverage and the fanfare,” he explained in an >interview with FIFA.com. “That has given people in the country the opportunity to see some very decent players that ordinarily they wouldn’t have had the chance to. From that perspective, the ISL has been very good.”

The ISL saw an average attendance of more than 20,000 last year, just shy of those in Italy’s Serie A and Ligue 1 in France. A fact reflected on the streets and pitches of India with “more young kids playing football than ever before”.

2017 is a year when the world is set to get a closer look at Indian football, with the country set to host the FIFA Under-17 World Cup. 24 sides from across the globe will battle it out for the title and Constantine said it will be a 'huge honour for India to have the World Cup'.

"I think the effect of the U-17 World Cup will be there for years and years to come in terms of the facilities, the training pitches, knowledge about organising a World Cup and how that all comes into play," added the experienced coach.

Constatine thinks that the upcoming U-17 World Cup could help provide the platform and momentum to progress in football, in a country where states are larger than some European countries. “A lot of attention has been given to the infrastructure, as it’s not just the stadiums, you need training grounds,” the 54-year-old explained.

“Now, because of the World Cup and because of FIFA, mindsets are changing from including running tracks or stadiums being used for cricket too," he said. "You want football-specific stadiums and facilities so two, three or four teams can train. You need that for a World Cup, and it means afterwards there will be facilities for teams and people to use. That’s fantastic and is something that’s not happened before. As long as we are able to maintain them, we will start to get the facilities which are sorely needed.

“I think the effect of the U-17 World Cup will be there for years and years to come in terms of the facilities, the training pitches, knowledge about organising a World Cup and how that all comes into play.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other major leaders are getting behind the tournament and trying to draw focus towards growing football in the country. “[The U-17 World Cup] alone cannot be our final objective,” said the PM January. “[It] must be a catalyst for change, the tipping point for football in the country, which can only be done by creating a mass movement around it.”

Constantine is buoyed by PM's words and hopes the promise turns true in the future. “When Mr Modi stands up and says we need to pay attention to the first World Cup to be held in India, people need to listen and I couldn’t agree more with what he said,” Constantine reflected.

“We need football to be played in every single school in India. It’s the best game in the world, it’s the most loved game in the world, kids in India love their football but they’re just not getting enough of it.”

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