New Delhi: Sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Wednesday said the Indian government is concerned at the "dismal" condition of the game of football in the country and is making "persistent efforts" to promote it.
Sonowal acknowledged that the performance of the Indian football team has declined recently, when asked about its condition in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
India have dropped 15 places to be 156th in the latest world rankings following two consecutive defeats in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Englishman Stephen Constantine-coached India lost to Oman and Guam last month.
"The performance of the Indian football team has declined due to various reasons such as lack of proper attention for development of football especially at the grass roots level, lack of sponsorship, lack of sufficient career opportunity in sports etc.
"Government has been making persistent efforts to promote football in the country in association with other stakeholders," Sonowal said.
Sonowal said the government is committed to attract young talent to football and develop a vast infrastructure network.
"The All India Football Association (AIFF) has started a nationwide grassroots programme aimed at boys and girls aged between 6-12 years of age. The aim of this programme is to get more boys and girls playing football.
During the last three years, i.e, 2012-15, an amount of Rs.23.46 crore was spent from the central government budget for football.
Constantine later said to improve the poor standard of the national team, People of Indian Origin (PIO) players should be allowed to play for the country by giving them temporary Indian passports.
He said he had already identified a few PIO footballers, who are willing to play for India and add value to the team.
At present, only Indian passport holders can represent the country.