Gurgaon: All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel on Sunday sought to showcase the country's potential in the sport by bringing out the popularity of Indian Super League (ISL) as the AIFF hosted a glittering AFC Awards night here.
Speaking at Asian Football Confederation event here, Patel said India could be on the verge of making a big stride in the sport with some top flight international competitions coming up in the near future.
"We are hosting the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2017 and then the Indian Super League in its inaugural year last season instantly became the fourth most watched tournament in the world with a viwership of 275 million. You can well imagine the possibilty of the development of the game in this country. We want to give a big push forward," he said in front of the who's who of Asian football.
"We are one-sixth of the humanity and we hope we can make a difference. We are far from realising our dream. We are still a sleeping giant but in the recent times, we have taken some baby steps and in the near future we hope these to become giant steps," Patel said while delivering the welcome address of the awards night.
None of the Indians or any Indian entity won any award in the event held for the first time in the country.
AFC President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa also spoke about India's huge potential in the sport.
"India's potential in the sport is extremely high. India is hosting the AFC Under-16 Championships next year and then the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2017. It can play a big role in the sport," he said.
United Arab Emirates' Ahmed Khalil walked away with the top award of AFC Player of the Year award. He beat his national team-mate Omar Abdul Rahman and China captain Zheng Zhi for the coveted honour.
The AFC acknowledged the continent's best players, officials and administrators during the high profile gathering which also saw colourful performances by the Indian artists of the Zangoora group at the Kingdom of Dreams.
Full List of Award Winners:
AFC Member Association of the Year:
Inspiring category: Japan Football Association
Developing category: Hong Kong Football Association
Aspiring category: Bangladesh Football Federation
AFC Dream Asia Award:
Chinese Football Association
Japan Football Association
Vietnam Football Federation
AFC National Team of the Year:
Men: Australia National Team
Women: Japan Women's National Team
AFC Coach of the Year:
Men: Ange Postecoglou (Aus)
Women: Asako Takakura (JPN)
AFC Player of the Year:
Men: Ahmed Khalil (UAE)
Women: To be announced at a later date
AFC President Recognition Awards for Grassroots Football
Inspiring Category: Japan
Developing Category: Vietnam
Aspiring Category: Brunei Darussalam
AFC Fair Play Association of the Year: Japan Football Association
AFC Club of the Year: Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN)
AFC Futsal Player of the Year: Vahid Shamsaee (IRN)
AFC Futsal Team of the Year: Tasisat Daryaei (IRN)
AFC Youth Player of the Year:
Men: Dostonbek Khamdamov (UZB)
Women: Rikako Kobayashi (JPN)
AFC Foreign Player of the Year: Ricardo Goulart Pereira (BRA)
AFC Asian International Player of the Year: Son Heung-min (KOR).