December 3, 2021

Praful Patel on Indian football – AIFF needs the state associations to pull up their socks!

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The Indian FA chief asserted that the state associations should put in the work to ensure a steady supply of talent…

All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel has laid down a challenge to the various member state associations, calling for a greater involvement to take Indian football to a brighter future.

Patel feels that the outlook for Indian football is positive and with the support from a football-loving Union Sports Minister in Kiren Rijiju, there is a lot of potential for what the Indian FA can accomplish.

It must be noted that the AIFF has implemented steps to decentralise control over the youth leagues with states given the responsibility to conduct them from the upcoming season. However, Patel wants the state associations to wake up and contribute more.

“Mr. Rijiju loves football and that is a refreshing change. But the state associations must pull up their socks as well. Many associations who were not doing well have started showing signs of improvement. AIFF can’t do everything alone,” he said in a webinar organised by Football Delhi.

Patel re-iterated that work done by state associations will help build talent pool across the country which will generate a steady supply of talent to the upper streams of Indian football.

“We have a limited resource and in a country as vast as India, it is difficult to work alone. The states must ensure that the good work must trickle down to the last district and last village. We look to build a base of 500-600 players to have a steady supply of talent. This is a very important step to reach our target,” he said.

He further stated that football is fast growing in India and the popularity of European football helps. However, it is down to the Indian FA and the state associations to work in tandem and create the infrastructure to convert the interest in football among kids to something serious and tangible.

“The second most followed sport in India is still football. The tier 1 and tier 2 cities are watching European football. That is encouraging.”

He took the example of Delhi while lamenting how poor infrastructure has stalled the development of the game.

“Delhi has a great footballing culture. But why has the culture gone down in the last 10-15 years? We need more stadiums. The Ambedkar stadium is in shambles. There are no state associations that have a stadium of their own. In Delhi, if they want to have matches, they need a good stadium.

“It should be done for every state. Odisha has done a great job as they are supporting every sport.”

However, Patel stated that it’s not all gloom and doom for Delhi, given that there is a chance a club from the city might play in the I-League next season.

“We are redefining the Indian football landscape. Delhi will have an I-League club in the upcoming season. I think not only one, but there should be two clubs. We should all work together to create a robust footballing structure in the country.”