"I cannot wait to see football as the number one sport in the country" - FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke

On a four day visit to the city, Valcke advised India to play more International matches on FIFA sanctioned days to improve their FIFA ranking...

On a four day visit to India, FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke stated in a press conference in Delhi that though FIFA Rankings do not always reflect a team’s quality, India needs to play more matches against top teams on FIFA sanctioned dates, in order to climb up the rankings.

After All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel highlighted Syed Rahim Nabi’s statement in an interview that India are a much better side that what the rankings reflect, Valcke commented, “FIFA Rankings are very complicated. To climb the ladder in the rankings you need to play on FIFA dates and with competitive sides. Otherwise your good show won’t reflect,”

Revealing more about his mission for Indian football and why he wants India to host the U-17 World Cup in 2017, Valcke said, “Our main objective is to develop domestic football and bring it to the International level. People would take interest in watching Indian Domestic League and not only the English Premier League and the La Liga and so on. We want to improve the infrastructure as well. India is a large market and I cannot believe 1.2 billion people only play cricket!”

“This is the reason we want the U-17 World Cup in 2017 to take place in India. We aim to host World Cups in countries where football development is needed. India stays our primary area of focus. We have our Developmental Office in India,” he continued.

“That proves how serious we are about the 10-year project with India from 2012 to 2022. In between we have the 2017 World Cup bid and India’s aim to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.”

AIFF President Patel stressed that Valcke’s visit stays a very significant one. “We have been fortunate enough to have President Blatter and now Mr. Valcke visiting India in the same year. It depicts FIFA’s interest in developing football in the country.”

“Indian football is poised for a big leap after days of hibernation. We are ready to shake off our stupor and FIFA is supporting us in our cause. They are going out of their way to see India emerge as a strong tootballing Nation.”

Patel also maintained that it was important to focus on the infrastructure and groom talented players from a young age

“We have to start early if we want to grow as a footballing nation and develop the grassroots. We need to work on the pyramid and that stays the main objective of the Federation. Unless we have players being nurtured from the age of 12-13 we won’t grow.”

“We have a 10-year Master Plan called Lakshya and our aim is to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”

Patel and Valcke also signed an agreement related to this cause.

Complementing Patel’s statement, Valcke felt “India stays an integral part in Asia’s development.”

“India has to be one of the centre point of Asia to develop football,” he opined. “There is no football without grassroot programme,” he reiterated. “The U-17 World Cup is the perfect milestone to succeed in it.”

Patel signed off with a request for more more financial backing and artificial turfs from FIFA. He said, “Our request to FIFA would be to provide us with a dozen more artificial turfs. FIFA has provided us with eight of them previously during the ‘Win in India in India’ project. Financial help is also solicited.”

The media interaction ended with Valcke stating optimistically, “It would be a pleasure to serve Indian football. You know I cannot wait to see football as the number one sport in the country. Sorry cricket!”

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