SAFF C’ship is a demonstration of Indian Football’s growth
SAFF C’ship: All India Football Federation Secretary General Dr Shaji Prabhakaran lauded the Blue Tigers for their “level of execution” in the Hero Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championship.
The Indian football team completed two successful months in the two tournaments, extending their unbeaten run to 11 matches.
“The team is eager to perform on the pitch, which is evident from the kind of football we saw them play. I don’t know when was the last time we saw such a level of execution. The confidence, the movement, and the team spirit was simply amazing. All thanks to the players, the coach, and the support staff,” Dr Prabhakaran told the-aiff.com.
He further went on to shower praise on the fans in Bengaluru for their support during the SAFF Championship.
“I would like to thank all the fans for coming out in large numbers to support the team in Bengaluru during the SAFF Championship. They truly deserve it and I feel that this is just the beginning,” he said. “The team will feel that they are not left alone and that they are getting all the support from the stakeholders. The fans deserve greater appreciation from us for lifting the spirit of the team.”
The SAFF Championship, for the first time, had teams from outside the South Asian region in the form of Lebanon and Kuwait, and the Secretary General felt that this was something that further highlighted the improvement of the team.
“The SAFF Championship demonstrated that we have grown in terms of our status. Our ranking also improved at the same time, taking us to 100. Now it is on us to take the momentum forward and continue to engage with our stakeholders.”
The Indian national teams, across age groups, have exhibited a marked improvement in their performance, which was amply visible in the U-17s too, in their AFC U-17 Asian Cup campaign, as they performed admirably against teams like Vietnam, Uzbekistan, and Japan.
“Our U-17 team recently played in the AFC U-17 Asian Cup in Thailand, and had put in some very good performances despite being in a tough group. We drew against Vietnam and lost to strong Uzbekistan and Japan sides. In fact, the 4-8 loss to Japan saw our boys fight an admirable battle against a side that went on to become champions. No other side was able to score that many goals against Japan,” he said.
“This once again demonstrated that we have the talent, passion, and commitment, and that we can also deliver,” said Dr Prabhakaran. “Now what we need is to bridge the gap in our competitive youth structure. That is why we have decided that from this season, we will have the U-13, U-15, and U-17 leagues.
Prior to India’s SAFF Championship final in Bengaluru, the Federation’s Executive Committee met in the city, followed by the Annual General Body Meeting, where some important decisions were taken on the road ahead for Indian Football.
“The Executive Committee meeting had full attendance and we had a very fruitful discussion on a number of areas. Definitely, the decision to include five new clubs in the Hero I-League was historic,” said Dr Prabhakaran. “It reflects how more industrialists in India want to be a part of the football community, where they see a better future. They see that this is the right time to invest in the game.
“Most of these new teams are coming from new geographies which are going to further help and strengthen football in those regions, and bring more people and organisations to Indian Football,” he said. “That way, the competitiveness of the league will grow, the value of the league will grow, and the investors will find it to be a better scenario as compared to last season.”
The Blue Cubs project has also been launched by the Federation, as it looks to strengthen its foothold at the Grassroots levels. “We want to grow the footballing landscape in India through Blue Cubs, our flagship grassroots programme. That is where the Blue Cubs Football Schools initiative comes in to help in engaging more children with the game,” he said.
“We are also coming up with the grassroots leaders course to democratise the learning so that more individuals and organisations are empowered to be a part of the grassroots football in India. We want the grassroots footprint of Indian football to grow much bigger and we should be there in every village and that is how we want 100 million kids to be part of the grassroots football by 2047.”