Henry Menezes, CEO of Western India Football Association (WIFA), believes that hosting the U-17 World Cup in 2017 would do wonders in improving the grassroots and also help realize Robert Baan’s ‘Lakshya’ master plan for development.
“I think this is the best thing that could have happened for Indian football. It's even better than getting a chance in the senior FIFA World Cup since that would have only improved the financial condition. Here we can also improve the grassroot levels and turn the plans of Lakshya into reality,” Menezes told Goal.
He thanked Praful Patel, president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and WIFA, for his efforts in helping India secure the hosting rights for the world championship for U-17.
“This is start of a football explosion. When I heard the news for the first time, I almost started dancing. We needed something to start the revolution and here it is. We should all thank the president of the AIFF. He has delivered and showed what he can do.
“This will start a new era of Indian football. We needed something to lure the sponsors and now I think that the sponsors will start pouring in,” he opined.
Commonwealth Games was the last major sporting event hosted by India in 2010 and the government received a lot of flak for sub-standard accommodation and facilities for participants which was also compounded by allegations of corruption on the organisers. Whether India would be ready to host the U-17 World Cup by avoiding embarrassment on international stage, Menezes said, “I don't exactly know what happened during the Commonwealth Games, but I guess this will be totally different. This is a completely different ball game.”
Menezes mentioned that football has the opportunity to be the number two sport in the country after cricket.
“The nation is in search for a second sport. Football should take that place. Among the 12-to-13 year olds, more kids play football than cricket as it is not expensive. And we need kids of that category to play in the World Cup. There is a large market of the game in the country and the new explosion will surely change the scenario.”
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