Injeti Srinivas: ‘U-17 World Cup a watershed moment for Indian football’

The Union government is aiming to help India keep pace with the global progress that football maintains. “The U-17 World Cup is a watershed moment for Indian football. It is a step towards reclaiming our past glory,” said union sports secretary Injeti Srinivas.

Srinivas emphasised the need to introduce modern training from the formative stage.   -  K. Murali Kumar

The Union government is aiming to help India keep pace with the global progress that football maintains. “The U-17 World Cup is a watershed moment for Indian football. It is a step towards reclaiming our past glory,” said union sports secretary Injeti Srinivas.

Explaining the significance of government’s support to host the Cup, Srinivas said, “The under-17 Cup is the third most important of FIFA event (after senior and U-20). It will enable India to go along with the global system, the competitive system that football generates. We have to create the necessary infrastructure, the leagues, talent identification process and training methods.”

Srinivas emphasised the need to introduce modern training from the formative stage. “The moulding has to be done at the youngest level. That’s why the AIFF (All India Football Federation) is having the baby leagues (U-13, U-14, 5-7). We will have to sustain it in the immediate future in order to move ahead at an engaging pace.”

The hosting of the Cup would not have been possible without Government support. “The Government provided all the guarantees which the FIFA wanted to host the event. We didn’t have the kind of infrastructure for football as we would have liked for the World Cup \. We did not have proper football stadiums, barring one or two places. We have to develop the arenas and also skill development methods for the youngsters.”

Srinivas also underlined the importance of organising competitions for players in all age groups. “We have to start a major junior development programme and not just for selecting 21 players.  When you have different age group competitions, it will give a trigger to junior teams. I see a churning process that will push the game in the right direction. This is a transformational phase that promises good results.”

On the importance of club culture in identifying and grooming the talent, Srinivas said, “The primary reason why we have not kept pace with the others is that we don’t have a commercial format. The club won’t thrive without it. How then would you identify talent because clubs invest in youngsters to keep their stature? Football can’t be just federation driven. Federation can be there to implement regulations but the driving force has to be clubs. The club creates a fan base and catchment area that propels the game. There can be certain aberrations in the process but they cane be tackled with time.”

Would the government look to protect the club culture in India? “The Government can’t fund the clubs but we can create an eco system by providing coaches and the infrastructure. I am sure it will give a fillip to the game in India. Till then let us enjoy our team compete at the big stage. We may be the underdogs and it a very confident bunch. The nation backs them to produce a good show.”