New Delhi: FIFA's secretary general Jerome Valcke on Wednesday said the presence of big names in the Indian Super League (ISL) will help the cricket-obsessed nation develop a football culture and could brighten the national team's chances of qualifying for the World Cup.
"We must make sure that we're all together with one goal to develop football in India and help India play in the World Cup sooner," Valcke said.
While addressing the ASSOCHAM interactive session, Valcke said, "It's important because these stars are people who kids everywhere are dreaming about. It's a way to attract more youngsters. India has huge potential and the Indian Super League is helping."
The two-month franchise-based tournament, modelled on cricket's Indian Premier League (IPL), kicked off on Sunday amid a lot of fanfare.
Cricket legends such as Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, Bollywood stars Ranbir Kapur, Hrithik Roshan, John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan among others are co-owners of the eight franchises.
Valcke said it was also of paramount importance to develop the game at the grassroot level.
"What is important is that whenever you do something at the top level, you don't forget about the grassroot programmes and to develop football at the level of the kids and then come to highest level," the secretary general added on a day when the All India Football Federation signed an MoU with ASSOCHAM to promote football in the country.
"Indian football fans have long followed European leagues with enthusiasm but so far it hasn't translated into a big following at home, and the national team is ranked in the 150s," Valcke said.
"FIFA has given India the responsibility of organising the under-17 World Cup in 2017 which is a huge milestone and would also help in the long run, particularly with infrastructure," he said.