With fans still gripped by India’s victory at the 15th edition of the traditional Nehru Cup, Indian football development is set to take centre stage during the coming days, as a FIFA delegation led by Secretary General Jérôme Valcke and the Director of Member Associations and Development, Thierry Regenass, heads off on a four-day visit to New Delhi.
At the top of the agenda of the FIFA representatives are meetings with Sports Minister Ajay Maken and All India Football Association (AIFF) President Praful Patel, the official inauguration of the FIFA development office in New Delhi, and presentations at the International Football Arena (IFA) conference.
The visit coincides with two special anniversaries: 75 years since the AIFF’s foundation and 50 years since India’s second and, until now, last gold medal in the Asian Games football tournament.
An estimated population of 1.2 billion people, an ancient football history that dates back to 1868 when the first match was played, and over 20 million football players showcase India’s football present.
During the past few years FIFA has been implementing a wide range of development projects in India, including the 'Win in India with India' initiative, which has seen world football's governing body investing USD 8 million into the construction of a technical centre in Mumbai as well as eight turf pitches in Mumbai, Shillong, Imphal, Bangalore, Kolkata, Pune and Goa (two).
Taking India to the next level
Further investments have been made through the Goal project, the Financial Assistance Programme, the PERFORMANCE Programme, and various educational schemes (an overview of the FIFA development projects in India is available through the links on the right).
Encouraging signs of progress have been witnessed in Indian football over the past few years, with several top European clubs targeting Indian youth talent, and India’s captain Sunil Chetri recently joining Portuguese giants Sporting CP.
“The upcoming visit is proof of FIFA’s continued commitment to India. We look forward to FIFA’s support in order to take Indian football to the next level,” said AIFF Secretary General Kushal Das.
“It’s our goal to further enhance our development and grassroots programmes, thus giving anyone who wants to embrace the game in India a chance to play. I believe in the next five to seven years we’ll see quite a few Indian players moving to Europe.”
The trip of the FIFA delegation follows the India trip made by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in March 2012. “My aim as the FIFA President remains the establishment of football in the continent of India,” said Blatter during his stay, thus emphasising his thought that India should be regarded as “a continent rather than a country”.
Keep checking FIFA.com to follow our special India coverage.