FIFA and the Indian Football Association (AIFF) signed a protocol agreement on 5 September 2012 in New Delhi, officialising the cooperation between the two bodies regarding the development of football on the sub-continent. It also gave world football's governing body and the Indian FA the chance to re-evaluate how best to work together.
The protocol agreement (which is set to run until 2014) was signed on 5 September 2012 by FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke and by Praful Patel, President of the AIFF. It sets out how FIFA and the Indian FA should work together towards the development of football. "The agreement covers management strategy, technical development and the strengthening of clubs and the championship," Valcke explained.
Patel also went on to outline the AIFF's 10-year development plan focussing on youth football, which has been named "Lakshya" which means "aim". One of these aims is to help the Indian team to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™ , with the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 – which the country is a candidate to host – being a milestone along the way.
"We will present an official application and then it will be up to the FIFA Executive Committee to decide. We have a solid case and a real commitment to the development of football in our country, which should put us among the stronger candidates," Patel said.
"The PERFORMANCE FIFA programme has already helped us streamline our organisation and complete our technical, educational, grassroots and coach-training activities, which is something that we really needed to do," Kushal Das, Secretary General of the AIFF, told FIFA.com. "With FIFA's help, we're implementing a complete development structure, and if we're chosen to host the FIFA U-17 World Cup, that will definitely be a real help as well."
FIFA, the Indian FA and the country's national authorities have already been working closely together for some time, with various programmes and activities having been set up and implemented. Just a few weeks ago, Minister for Sports Ajay Maken announced the opening of sporting infrastructures for the public to give young people easier access to playing sport after school. This may seem like a simple measure but it is a crucial one in terms of encouraging Indian youngsters to play football.
Valcke also highlighted other investments, saying, "The Win in India with India programme, in which some $8m USD has been invested, has already seen four artificial pitches built in Mumbai, Shillong, Imphal and Bangalore. Two others will be opened this month in Goa and Kolkata, with another two still to come".
FIFA has also spent $2 million USD on renovating the Mumbai Cooperage Stadium, a project which should be finished in December and which includes floodlights for evening games, seating and new locker-rooms for the stadium.
Thanks to FIFA's Goal programme, the AIFF has also launched an ambitious plan to establish regional elite talent academies as part of their focus on youth development. "The first training centre was opened in Mumbai in May," said Das, "with two more to follow shortly in Bangalore and Kolkota."
"FIFA is contributing $500,000 USD and the second phase of the plan will continue in January 2013 with the opening of an elite training centre for the national U-16 team as well as five other regional centres for a total of 150 players born between 1999 and 2000," explained Thierry Regenass, FIFA's Director of Member Associations and Development, as he spoke of a project to promote a generation of players who could well make up the core of the team for the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017.
"India is a priority for us," concluded Valcke. "Our hope is for as many FIFA tournaments as possible to be held by countries which have needs in terms of development, and this would make the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 a perfect milestone for India."