January 16, 2021

Praful Patel: Maharashtra Govt. is helping AIFF with another Centre of Excellence in Navi Mumbai

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The President informed that the Maharashtra Government will build a Centre of Excellence in Navi Mumbai on 19 acres of land…

Praful Patel, the President of All India Football Federation (AIFF), informed that the Maharashtra government will be building a ‘centre of excellence’ in Navi Mumbai on 19 acres of land which would be utilised for the benefit of Indian football.

The AIFF has already undertaken an ambitious centre of excellence project at Rajarhat, Kolkata which is set to be completed in a couple of years’ time. 

“The Maharashtra government will give us 19 acres of land to set up another centre of excellence. They will build infrastructure and AIFF will be involved in the operations,” informed Patel during a webinar hosted by Football Delhi. 

The Senior Vice President of AFC chalked out how efficiently the federation has worked to turn a 100 crore ecosystem to almost a 1000 crore sport in the last decade. 

“It was the right decision to host the age group football World Cups. It is a good beginning. If we had this before then our national team could have done much better. Previously, the whole ecosystem would have come to 100 crores and now it has grown exponentially to almost 1000 crores. 

“We have come a long way. AFC (Asian Football Confederation) has supported us to the fullest. Even FIFA now understands that Indian football needs to be supported and it needs to have a better standard of football. Dato Windsor (AFC General Secretary) has helped us a lot in solving challenges.

“Unless India and China play at that level globally the money does not come. It has to be commercially successful. We need to professionalize Indian football more. The I-League was the beginning and now The ISL is doing the job. Players are getting paid handsomely and more clubs have come up,” elaborated Patel. 

The Member of Parliament also stressed on the importance of grassroots football and suggested that five SAI (Sports Authority of India) facilities should be made football-centric to develop the sport across the country. 

“We had just one I-League a decade back. Some clubs were floundering and some were doing okay. The ecosystem needed to be changed. We had no organised grassroots programme. The Tata Football Academy was one the only torch-bearer that time and we had so many players coming out from the setup. TFA was ahead of its time. Barring that, there was no structure at all. So these things needed to be changed. If one SAI facility in each zone is made a football-centric facility, then these kids can be put in one facility and then we can provide them with the right inputs without running our resources thin.

“Very few people realise what the odds challenges, roadblocks are that we overcome each day to become what we are today. People judge by how the Indian national team is playing. If the national team plays well people start taking the sport seriously. We had a long list of things to do. Indian football has done much better in the last 10 years. We came to FIFA rankings 94 last year from 170 odd a couple of years ago. But that’s not good enough. The top 50-60 are so competitive that anybody can beat anyone, on their given day. We are far from that level,” stated Patel. 

The AIFF supremo is set to meet with Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju in New Delhi next week to form a blueprint of setting up five zonal committees. These would be responsible to scout the hidden talent that are spread across the length and breadth of the country.