FIFA president Gianni Infantino praised India on Sunday for hosting the U-17 Women’s World Cup well.
Infantino was felicitated by AIFF’s new office bearers, executive committee members, and the technical committee in Navi Mumbai ahead of the U-17 Women’s World Cup final on Sunday.
“India has been a fantastic host. This makes me believe that you can do more in other competitions as well. In the meantime, there can be only one World Champion, but there are 210 countries that are not champions. However, I always say that all 211 countries win in the end. Football brings smiles to every little girl and boy in the world. When children play or watch football, they smile,” Infantino said.
Infantino informed the gathering that he will be back in India early next year.
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“We were just in a meeting with [Kalyan] Chaubey (AIFF president). Grassroots is an important area that we need to start pushing from and build from there. There are also things like how we can professionalise women’s competitions, and we have to strengthen the leagues to promote Indian football,” Infantino said.
He also spoke about FIFA’s operations in India. He said, “You can count on FIFA to beef up our office here in India. We will work together on various things. India is a big country, a great country. There’s a lot to offer for both Indians in India and worldwide. I believe in the potential India has.
“I spoke about India in the FIFA Congress as the sleeping giants of football. Now, it’s time for India to wake up. Whenever I come to India, I see a lot of passion for sports. Our ultimate objective is to make football global, and India, along with USA and China are the three countries that are priorities for us. To globalise football, we need to make India one of the top countries in the world.”
‘Big role in Asian football’
FIFA and AFC are happy with India’s performance in hosting multilateral football tournaments, and want the country to host more, said AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa.
“FIFA and AFC want to focus on India to host more future events, and over the last few years since I’ve taken over at the AFC, I think India has played a big role in Asian football. You have hosted two World Cups and the Senior Women’s AFC Asian Cup here. India is a major country in Asia and hopefully, it can take its position at the same level in football, in the coming years,” he said.
Shaikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa felt India had a greater chance for success in the future.
“India has taken great strides in recent times, but the pace could be even faster. Of course, the COVID pandemic has not helped in the last two years, and that was not just in India. There will always be challenges, be it COVID or other things, but I think the determination is there from all stakeholders to progress.”
“It’s a country of more than 1.3 billion, so there must be enough talent in India. They need all the support they can get from the stakeholders, the AIFF, the government, the private sector, and all other parties for the game to succeed,” he said. “I’m sure football has great potential to succeed in India.”