Mumbai: The All India Football Federation
(AIFF) today said it wants to see the country`s national team
breach the top 100 of the world football rankings within three
"Our aim is to break into the top 100 in three years. We
have been sliding in the rankings consistently. We need to
develop the infrastructure as well as concentrate on grass
roots level development. That is possible only by making it
totally professional," AIFF President Praful Patel said at a
media conference here.
Patel, also Union Civil Aviation Minister, was speaking
at a function to send off two south Mumbai school boys,
Hussain Vahanvaty (St Mary`s) and Shaun Fernandes (St Peters),
for a six-week training stint with the English club Queen`s
The duo was picked through a talent hunt programme
initiated by South Mumbai MP Milind Deora last year.
The AIFF chief said all the I-League clubs of the country
have been given time till February next to become totally
professional outfits by fulfilling all the licensing criteria
laid down by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
"In October we will have an audit of all these clubs and
by February the full details of the clubs fulfilling the AFC
laid down licensing criteria will be out," Patel said.
"FIFA President Sepp Blatter and AFC chief (Mohammed bin
Hammam) are clear that if football is to be called a truly
global game, it has to catch up big time in India." he said.
Patel rued the absence of international standard football
stadiums in the country as a whole and Mumbai in particular,
and said top footballers of the world cannot be
invited to play here with the existing conditions.
"I cannot invite Ronaldinho to play in India. We need
to develop the infrastructure. Mumbai has a good stadium for
cricket and nothing else. There is great enthusiasm from the
corporates for football but the infrastructure have to go up,"
Looking ahead to the AFC Asian Cup for which India has
qualified after more than two-and-a-half decades, the AIFF
chief said said more international friendlies would be held
for the national team ahead of the 2011 event in Qatar.
"We have qualified for the Asian Cup after 26 years. We
have a good coach (Bob Houghton) and all the selected
footballers are being paid what they would have earned
contractually with their clubs plus 15 per cent. We hope we
would do well," he said.
The quadrennial event is scheduled from January 7 to
29 and would feature 16 teams - Qatar, China, Kuwait, Iraq,
Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Jordan, Syria, South Korea,
India, Australia, Bahrain, North Korea, UAE and Iran.
Patel said international friendlies would help the
national team prepare for the prestigious football event.