P. Gopichand: India should organise many more football tournaments

India is one of the biggest fan bases for the sport and “cannot be ignored due to our size,” recognises the India badminton coach.

P. Gopichand at the launch of ‘Football Mania’ in Mumbai on Tuesday.   -  PTI

India is set to host the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2020 and P. Gopichand feels it should organise more and better tournaments in future for the benefit of its players.

A fan of Diego Maradona, Carlos Valderamma and Bhaichung Bhutia, and a follower of the Dutch team featuring Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, the celebrated badminton coach also spoke about the effect of the Indian Super League on football in India.

He was talking on the sidelines of a grassroots football project launch named Football Mania.

Excerpts from an interaction:

On FIFA’s decision to choose India as the host nation for the U-17 Women’s World Cup: As a country, we cannot be ignored due to our size. I do believe people sense that India is one of the biggest fan bases for football, people do believe India is now a football-playing country [among] many new entrants into the sport. FIFA recognises this fact along with our economic power and realises that if [it] can tap into India, football may probably get more sponsors.

On India capitalising on this opportunity to take part in FIFA competitions as the host: I believe that once we reach a certain level, we should organise competitions one level above us. It gives us the chance to face competition and beat them in our own conditions, helps our players to progress. India should be organising many more tournaments where we can get to the semifinals or final. Hosting competitions brings the nation into the spotlight, for the benefit of players we should host tournaments one level above.

Read | India set for training session in Dubai before World Cup qualifiers

On how the ISL can help Indian juniors prepare for FIFA tournaments: The ISL definitely help put the sport up there. I am from a previous generation, following Mohun Bagan [and] East Bengal. I believe the ISL has brought new interest into football. People are looking at bringing in foreign coaching, support staff, academies have come up in various parts where teams are based. The ISL teams are investing in local talent and trying to bring them into prominence, take local players abroad. These club owners are big people whose pride is at stake, so they are investing in the sport, investing in grassroots and want their teams to do well.

On Hyderabad’s entry into the ISL this season as Hyderabad FC: I am associated with the Kerala Blasters because the sponsor of my badminton academy (Gopichand academy) is an owner of the Blasters. The Hyderabad team brand ambassadors are known to us. I am definitely looking forward to watching a home match.

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