I-League to Help Promote Indian Football: AIFF
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Optimistic about the bright future of the Indian football, All India Football federation (AIFF) Vice-President, Ankur Dutta said the I-league introduced by the federation is a step in right direction to promote football in the country.

AIFF has initiated all possible steps to promote football as we are targeting India to take part in the 2022 World Cup football championship, Dutta said here yesterday.

FIFA has promised all possible assistance to promote the game and already given eight artificial turfs with promise for more in future, he said.

India has expressed its willingness to host the Under-17 World Cup championship in 2017 and the world body was to finalise the venue soon, he said expressing confidence that India’s bidding for the U-17 World Cup will be heard fairly.

Indian football will get a boost if the U-17 World Cup would be allotted to us, he opined.

We have adequate infrastructure to host the championship, which would also allow further scope to improve it before 2017, he said.

When asked about his reaction over the recent statement of FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke that I-league had failed to impress even after five season and needed to have a commercial as well as television partner to make it more attractive, Dutta said I-league is step in right direction to promote the game in the country and the league has helped the Indian football to gain popularity in the country.

Dutta, who was also the Chairman of the Federation Cup committee, admitted that Indian football needed more and more international exposure to improve their performance at world stage.

We will have to provide more international exposure to achieve the target to see India qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, he said adding that AIFF’s focus now was to conduct the Under-17 World Cup, if allotted, successfully.

Barring few teams, we were aware about other football teams and players before the inception of the I-league five years ago, he observed adding that today, we have over 14 teams and internationally reputed footballers playing the league.

Asked whether AIFF was contemplating any action to make I-league more attractive to pull the crowd, Dutta said AIFF’s commercial and marketing partner IMG-Reliance has been working to make Indian football more professional.

This (Under-17 World Cup) would provide Indian team (an opportunity) to play in the championship as a host country alongwith top teams of the world and would also provide scope to further sharpen our skill to achieve the 2022 target, he said.

Asked about the Indian football ranking, which dropped to 169th slot in the latest World Ranking despite its win over the strong Cameroon in the recently held Nehru Cup, Dutta said the world ranking was based on International matches and our participation in international tournament was low.

Dutta, however, claimed that Indian football has started looking up and has good future.

He said that the Tata Football Academy has been doing very well and has produced several internationally reputed footballers.
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