Given that FIFA is looking to make the 2026 World Cup a 48-team affair, India have a good chance of qualifying for the same, feels Subrata Dutta, Senior Vice-President of the All India Football Federation (AIFF),
"With FIFA in the process of expanding the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams, it has given us a greater incentive and I believe if all stakeholders work in synchronisation to develop the sport in the country, then there is no reason why we cannot qualify for the 2026 World Cup," stated Dutta, speaking on the sidelines of FICCI’s GOAL Summit 2019.
India hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 in 2017 and is slated to host the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2020 and the infrastructure is already in place.
"We have six FIFA approved stadiums, and we plan to add four more to them by 2022. The National Centre of Excellence which is coming up in West Bengal will be a state of the art centre which will help in the training of players, coaches, referees and officials.
“Today we have 60 accredited academies coupled with youth leagues and baby leagues. There are over 650 baby leagues being conducted with over 30,000 kids participating and this number will double over the years," said Dutta highlighting the work that has been done to improve football structure in India.
The performances of the Indian National Teams have been noteworthy as well, especially the senior team’s 4-1 win against Thailand in the AFC Asian Cup. He also highlighted the women’s team clinching the 5th successive SAFF title in a row and the U-16 team reaching the quarterfinals of the AFC U-16 Championship.
“Indian Football his growing exponentially. It has grown by leaps and bounds. The holistic development of Indian football over the last few years has been a major achievement, and all associated with it should be proud," stated Dutta.