‘Asian Cup participation can spur football in India’

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India’s participation at the Asian Cup in Qatar could provide a kick-start for football in the country, the president of the Asian Football Confderation (AFC), Mohamed Bin Hammam, said.

In an interview with the Press Trust of India published on the official tournament website Thursday, Bin Hammam said that he was happy to see India participate 27 years after last qualifying for the showpiece of Asian football.

However, he also said that India needed to build a modern football infrastructure first if it ever considered to big for a big tournament such as the 2019 Asian Cup or even the 2026 World Cup, as recently suggested by world football supremo Joseph Blatter.

India was one of the founding members of the AFC but is playing only its third Asian Cup finals.

India was runner-up to Israel in 1968 and had a winless campaign in four 1984 matches. It also lost the opening match of the current edition, 4-0 against Australia, with matches against Bahrain and South Korea still to come in Qatar.

“The national association, the players and fans in India must be feeling excited that their team is playing in the Asian Cup. I do believe it is the start of the wake up call for India and from here on they should move ahead,” said Bin Hammam.

“In the recent past there has been strong development of football in Asia except for India.” “Football in India has changed from 27 years ago but many countries of the region had gone ahead of India and they have the chance to move forward now,” said Bin Hammam, who is considered a possible future FIFA president said.

Bin Hammam said that India could learn from the example set by Japan, who qualified for their first Asian Cup in 1988, when they did not win a single match.

“In the next tournament in 1992, they were the champions. I have a feeling that the same can happen in the case of India. The federation and people of India want change in their football fortunes.

“What is important is that there will have to be mass participation in football and part of Indian football must be commercialised and businessmen will see opportunity to enter to football.

“Commercialisation of Indian football is a must and I am sure it will be a success,” he said.

However, Bin Hammam said that huge strides were needed in the country if India also wanted to bid for a major tournament.

“Every country has a right and ambition to host big events like the World Cup. It is not in our hands. It is entirely in India’s hands and not an external wish.” “If India wants to host the World Cup they will have to show in their bid that they are capable and ready. It depends on the determination of India to take up the challenge.” Looking at the Asian Cup, he said: “India will have to be ready and naturally infrastructure will have to be developed in a way that it meets today’s international football standards.”

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This post was submitted by Mudit Agrawal.

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