`Sleeping giant` India slowly waking up: Blatter

New Delhi: Acknowledging that "sleeping giant" India is slowly waking up to its potential in football, FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Friday said that there is scope for other sports in the country besides cricket.

In his 14th year as president of the world football governing body, Blatter wished to see India as a premier footballing nation before his mandate finishes in 2015.

"To wake up a sleeping giant you need several alarm clocks. We have set up several alarm clocks. My tenure ends in 2015 but I won`t leave FIFA until I see the sport established in the sub-continent of India," Blatter told reporters here.

Blatter, accompanied by FIFA executive committee members Zhang Zilong, president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), and Manilal Fernando, arrived here this afternoon to inspect the infrastructure in view of the Under-17 World Cup.

Referring to cricket, Blatter said, "There is space for other sports in India. Football is the world sport...we are really a strong organisation."

Blatter felt Indian football has made improvements since his first visit to the country in 2007.

"We are following very carefully developments of Indian football... have special people attached to India... have a FIFA development regional office in India.

He said USD 8 million has been invested in laying the (artificial) turf in places like Kolkata, Shillong, Bangalore, Mumbai and Imphal.

"Four regional academies will be launched in Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. There will also be four regional academies," he said.

Blatter seemed satisfied with the change of guard in the AIFF.

"I am happy with the governance of the AIFF. I must thank Mr. Patel for his initiatives," he said.

"The professional league has not yet got the standing but we will find a solution," he added.

Blatter said Indian President Patil and Prime Minister Singh also love and support the sport.

As far as the goal line technology is concerned, Blatter said it would come into effect by July.

The technology has been opposed by UEFA president and former French legend Michael Platini.

"We have had several meetings with the International Football Association Board (IFAB), who are the guardian of the laws of the game. It is likely to come into effect by July 2. But it won`t be compulsory and it will depend on the respective football association," he said.

Recalling the 2010 World Cup`s pre-quarterfinal match between Germany and England in which Frank Lampard`s goal was disallowed, Blatter said he doesn`t want a repeat in the next edition.

"I don`t want a repeat of Lampard`s goal. Such things should not happen in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Mr. Platini can have his objections but we have to embrace the technology.

"But the human face of the game should stay. We have to live with errors. After all, referees are an integral part of the game," he said.

According to the 75-year-old Swiss, Argentine Lionel Messi is the best footballer of this generation.


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