Asian Cup experience should spur India to move ahead: Hammam

Asian Football Confederation President Mohammed bin Hammam said India`s participation in the Asian Cup after a gap of 27 years could see the country taking the first step towards the glory days.

Doha: Asian Football Confederation President
Mohammed bin Hammam today said India`s participation in the
Asian Cup after a gap of 27 years could see the country taking
the first step towards the glory days of the past when they
were continental leaders.

India are taking part in the Asian Cup for the first time
after 1984 and Bin Hammam forsees the country becoming a
strong side in future tournaments.

"I am happy for India to play in Asian Cup after so many
years, after long disappearance. I welcome them. The national
association, the players and fans in India must be feeling
excited that their team is playing in the Asian Cup. I do
believe it is the start of the wake up call for India by all
means and from here on they should move ahead," Bin Hammam
said in an interview.

"India started football in Asia with the first official
match being played there in 1854. In the recent past there has
been strong development of football in Asia except for India.
Football in India has changed from 27 years ago but many
countries of the region had gone ahead of India and they have
the chance to move forward now.”

"In 1988, Japan played in the Asian Cup for the first
time when it was held here in Qatar and they could not win a
match and failed to get past the group stage. But in the next
tournament in 1992, they were the champions. I have a feeling
that the same can happen in the case of India. The federation
and people of India want change in their football fortunes,"
said the Qatari, who was recently elected to his third
four-year term as AFC chief.

"It is a myth," said Hammam, when queried about India
lagging behind mainly due to acute lack of infrastructure in
the country.”

Asked about his views on FIFA chief Sepp Blatter`s
reported comments that India could be a potential candidate to
host the World Cup in 2026 or after, Bin Hammam said, "Every
country has a right and ambition to host big events like the
World Cup. It is not in our hands. It is entirely in India`s
hands and not an external wish."

"If India wants to host the World Cup they will have to
show in their bid that they are capable and ready. It depends
on the determination of India to take up the challenge," he

The AFC chief, however, said India will have to address
the issues of lack of football infrastructure if it has to
host big international events.

Asked if India should bid for 2019 Asian Cup, Bin Hammam
said, "India will have to be ready and naturally
infrastructure will have to be developed in a way that it
meets today`s international football standards."

"Lot of things need to be done. Football is not played in
isolation. Countries play against each other and clubs in Asia
have become very professional and we know these things are not
in India. These are no secrets.”

"People know what Qatar have, the stadiums and the
facilities which India do not have. It is a myth (why this is
happening in India). They will have to address these issues.
It is entirely the Indians who will have to do this and fix
it. The Indian Clubs will have to be commercial entities if
you want to progress further," he said.

Asked if FIFA would continue to support Indian football
with projects like `Win in India with India` started in 2008,
Bin Hammam said, "Win Project moves from country to country
but the USD eight million FIFA gives is nothing. What will you
do with it. This is just a small amount.”

"What is important is that there will have to be mass
participation in football and part of Indian football must be
commercialised and businessmen will see opportunity to enter
to football. Commercialisation of Indian football is a must
and I am sure it will be a success," he said.

Bin Hammam said those clubs which do not fulfil AFC
licensing criteria -- with deadline already over on December
2010 -- would not be allowed to take part in the next

"The AFC criteria apply to all clubs in all of Asia. It
is not on Indian clubs only. The rules will apply. We want to
transform part of India football into elite football, as
international level football.

"But hardly 12 or 14 top clubs are there in a
subcontinent like India. This I feel is just a small drop in a
vast ocean. Indian clubs need to take the lead in this
development," Hamman said.