The FIFA U-17 World Cup is only a few days away. From the blooming of the idea to host such a huge footballing event in India to actually be a few days away from the practical execution of it has taken away a lot of time, energy and money from the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
All has been well recently when it comes to Indian football, with the senior men's national team thriving under the tutelage of Stephen Constantine, who has successfully managed to lower India's FIFA ranking and bring it down to 107. The U-17 team is set to take part in the U-17 World Cup as hosts, with coach Luis Norton de Matos and his staff doing a fine job with the 21-man squad in the short space of time he has had since taking charge.
Let's go back in time to the year 2010. A victory in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup had helped India, then coached by Bob Houghton, to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup 2011 held in Qatar. As part of preparations, the coach suggested that the then crop of Indian players trained together in the months leading up to the Asian Cup 2011 in January.
What the AIFF did was convince the players to sign short-term contracts of eight months (From June 2010 to January 2011) with them in order to keep them together. The players hadn't signed on with any of the domestic clubs and instead, put pen to paper with AIFF.
These set of players were convinced by the country's football federation to sign contracts with them and the total annual compensation for them amounted to 7.6 Crores INR. With the players on board, the AIFF ensured that the team went on exposure trips to multiple countries and also hosted several friendlies.
At the Asian Cup 2011. they were drawn in Group C along with heavyweights Australia, South Korea and Bahrain and lost all three of their group games in Doha.
The sum of money spent as a whole for the team amounted to approximately 18 Crores INR.
And coming back to the present, given that the India Under-17 team had been extensively touring Europe and South America for exposure trips, one might not be surprised to believe that over 18 crores INR was invested in the current crop.
The revealing and thought-provoking answer to that question is a resounding 'No'. The SAI has spent between 10 Crores INR and 15 Crores INR for the current batch of India Under-17 players who are set to put Indian football on the world map.
These kids in a few years' time, could easily slot in as the future of football in India and their values will skyrocket.
However, what must be noted here is that the SAI has majorly contributed to India’s biggest campaigns in the last decade or so. Also Injeti Srinivas, who serves as the SAI Director General and Sports Secretary of India currently was the Joint Secretary of SAI back in 2010 when the AIFF got approval for the Asian Cup budget.
Indian fans can certainly thank the efforts put in by the AIFF and SAI, who have addressed every need and want of the India U17 team.