Praful Patel: 'Entire focus is on grassroots level'

"A major reason why we wanted the FIFA U-17 World Cup was that we wanted to focus on our grassroots. It is imperative to develop grassroots if a nation has to bring on a football revolution and that is exactly what we intend to do."

Baichung Bhutia and AIFF president Praful Patel at the launch of Shaji Prabhakaran's book 'Back To The Roots' in New Delhi.   -  Sandeep Saxena

With India hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017, Indian football is undergoing a mega revolution spearheaded by vigorous work at grassroots level in an attempt to change the whole ecosystem from bottom to top.

“We are right now investing actively with passion to develop football in India and take it to a higher level. The development phase is the most difficult one but we have to see it through,” AIFF president Praful Patel informed at the sidelines of FIFA RDO Shaji Prabhakaran’s book launch ‘Back To The Roots.’

“Our entire focus is on grassroots and that is why I can say that Indian football is headed in the right direction as results are visible to us,” he maintained. “The number of teams in the U-16 Youth League has increased tremendously and more football players are now involved at the grassroots level.”

“If we take a shortcut, we will never go to the next level. There is no shortcut when it comes to grassroots. It is important that what is happening is guiding change in Indian football and the whole ecosystem is progressing as the bottom of the player pyramid has beefed up massively,” the AIFF president said.

“A major reason why we wanted the FIFA U-17 World Cup was that we wanted to focus on our grassroots,” Patel said. “It is imperative to develop grassroots if a nation has to bring on a football revolution and that is exactly what we intend to do, before, after and during the FIFA World Cup.”

Meanwhile, former Indian captain and Indian footballing legend Baichung Bhutia who was also present during the launch seconded Patel’s observation and said: “If Indian football has to change, then we have to change from the grassroots level. It has to be a long term development through grassroots level if Indian football has to change.”

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