India on FIFA’s radar

Jerome Valcke’s presence at the ISL match between Delhi Dynamos and FC Pune City was seen by some as an endorsement for the competition. Understandably, the tournament’s marketing machinery sought to exploit the opportunity. But Valcke outlined his views clearly when he addressed the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) and media on October 15. By Priyansh.

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, as the Iberians like to say in English, “arrived in a good moment.” The Frenchman’s two-day visit to New Delhi coincided with the first Hero Indian Super League match in the city.

The following day, Valcke witnessed the launch of the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) ‘Strategic Plan’ — a 39-page document with rosy ideas for the development of football in the country.

Valcke’s presence at the ISL match between Delhi Dynamos and FC Pune City was seen by some as an endorsement for the competition. Understandably, the tournament’s marketing machinery sought to exploit the opportunity.

But Valcke outlined his views clearly when he addressed the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) and media on October 15.

“It’s (ISL) important because these stars are people who kids everywhere are dreaming about. It’s a way to attract more youngsters. India has huge potential and the Indian Super League is helping. What is important is that whenever you do something at the top level, you don’t forget about the grassroot programmes and to develop football at the level of the kids and then come to highest level,” said the FIFA Secretary General.

Identifying and developing young talent was a theme Valcke constantly emphasised as he sought to bring a sense of perspective to the excitement that has taken hold of the Indian football fraternity. The ISL, as he said, is a tournament and not even a league. While it may aid the development of a football culture in the country, Valcke reiterated that the I-League is the premier competition.

Hence, as the Secretary General himself pointed out, it could be the 2017 FIFA under-17 World Cup that could give India the biggest push for the realisation of its football goals. The legacy of the tournament is expected to provide greater fruits than just high-quality infrastructure. Valcke stressed that the organisation of the under-17 World Cup in India will be “a huge milestone.”

It was interesting to note that the Secretary General was clear on his vision for India. He maintained that the country’s journey into mainstream football will only begin by hosting the competition in 2017. To further the process, Valcke encouraged AIFF to bid for bigger events after the under-17 World Cup. The under-20 World Cup was mentioned as FIFA looks to gain a foothold in the Indian market.

For his part, Praful Patel expressed his desire to acquire the hosting rights for even bigger football tournaments. AIFF has already put in a bid for the FIFA Club World Cup in 2017 and ’18. The decision on the hosts for the two editions is expected to be made in December when the FIFA Executive Committee convenes for its annual meeting.