NEW DELHI: It was standing room only as over 500 people packed into Studio Two at the Manchester Central to listen to a debate on ‘Building Football’s Sleeping Giant.’ A group of 25 Indian delegates from diverse backgrounds and led by All India Football Federation (AIFF), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Libero Sports, discussed and analysed at length all about Indian Football at the Soccerex Global Convention.

All India Football Federation (AIFF) General Secretary, Mr. Kushal Das highlighted the good times have begun for Indian Football in general with Indian winning the bid for the FIFA 2017 U-17 World Cup and the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) all set to kick-off on October 2012.

“We have new investors coming into the Indian market. There are eight serious Franchises in the Hero ISL and now we have another major addition in the I-League as well. Things are moving in the right direction with the AIFF focused on developing the youth and grassroots in order to build the sports bottom up,” Mr. Das said.

With the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) set to kick-off next month, Mr. Sunando Dhar, CEO, I-League, stressed that there would be a ‘trickle down’ effect on the nation’s Premier Domestic Competition.

“In the last month or so, the kind of attention India has received Worldwide has been not been seen in recent past. Credit has to go to the Hero ISL for that and that will have a trickle-down effect on the I-League as well. It’s a mutual treatment towards each other,” Mr. Dhar stated.

“We are trying to work to take Indian Football to another level and as we are at a crossroads. We are trying new things like last year we brought in direct entries into the I-League. The ISL bringing in star attractions, celebs and Foreign Players that will ensure Football will be discussed more in India,” he added.

Former Newcastle United and England Under-21 striker Michael Chopra stated that he intends to play an important role in helping develop Football in India with his contributions on and off the pitch.

Chopra said: “I want to boost Football in India. There are 1.2 billion people. I want to be a part of making football a legacy out there. I want to improve the youth setup. When I was growing up my hero was Alan Shearer. I want the kids in India growing up to say ‘My hero is Michael Chopra.”

Rajpal Singh, Director, FICCI, elaborated further as to how on how India looks to Football’s developed Nations for technical expertise in order to improve the existing personnel and also ensure that there is a constant flow of new ideas.

“We, at FICCI look forward to more International conferences like the Soccerex which provides the apt platform for people from various backgrounds to come together. I can certainly vouch for the fact that the Indian delegation would have enhanced their knowledge and shared with the world that India is now more ‘sleeping giant’ but has already woken up to realize its potential.”

Source: All India Football Federation

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