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The technical director of the Indian FA believes that hosting the U-17 World Cup would provide a massive boost to realizing the ‘Lakshya’ Master Plan…

Robert Baan stated that hosting the U-17 World Cup in 2017 would provide India an opportunity to prove that they are on the right path towards progression.

“Former World Cups has proven that this is the stage where the new top-talents are discovered. This is where the Messi's, the Iniesta's and the Falcao's for the first time proved their enormous potential and were recognized by the top teams in the world. It will give football in India the chance to prove that they are on the right track,” Baan told Goal.

However the Dutchman warned that having got the hosting rights, the onus is on the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and the governments – both at the centre and the state levels – to ensure that the tournament must be conducted smoothly, else it would end in the country having to lose its face.

“It also is the responsibility now not only from the AIFF but from the Government, the sports minister and from all the participating states to put their hands together and work as a team. Otherwise what looks as a big potential to show the world that India is the 3rd World Power will end as a disaster and the whole of India will lose face.”

Baan pointed that each country which has hosted the U-17 World Cup has benefitted in the long run. 

“You have to look at each organizing country individual but recently the under 17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has shown again the enormous input these kind of events have for the whole country.”

Though India has won the hosting rights, there is a skepticism from a certain quarter who believe that the  country needs to pull up its socks and start working on the project immediately given that they were the most under-prepared amongst the countries who bid to host – Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and South Africa. 

“It is very crucial and India- but mostly the AIFF- must have started from December 5th when the announcement was made. We are already one year later than the normal procedure was planned.  We as technical staff need to focus on the technical part, but AIFF with the help of the sports ministry  must create a budget which provides us the opportunity to prepare the team in the best possible way, with regular camps abroad to play different countries and different systems and styles of play.

“We have already scouted a first selection of players born 2000 one year ago and they have been training for a year now in Goa under the guidance of coach Narayan Menon and his staff.”

When Baan was recruited back in October 2011, the brief was to create a plan for Indian football in general to be taken to the next level. Baan prepared the master plan named ‘Lakshya’ which has been put into practice to a certain level but primarily has been held back due to financial constraints. On being asked as to how much of a boost would the U-17 World Cup hosting in 2017 provide to the master plan, Baan answered in the affirmative.

“It will surely give the master plan an enormous boost as I may expect that everyone will realize that this World Cup is the beginning of putting AIFF on the football map. It may not be a one and only event and after that we start relaxing again. It is the first step to be recognized as a football nation and we all must accept the challenge to get more events like this not only for the men but also for our women football.”