Youth leagues and academies top AIFF's agenda

New Delhi, Dec 6 : There was unusual buzz Friday at the Football House, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) headquarters here. Within hours of the world body FIFA awarding the 2017 U-17 World Cup to India, the AIFF top brass went into a huddle chalking down things to be done immediately.

The first on the list is to raise a competitive India team for the showpiece event. They realised that two world class academies and a highly competitive youth league are essential.

Top boss Praful Patel has put the AIFF on high-alert and they have been told to get cracking.

AIFF secretary Kushal Das had a marathon meeting with FIFA's regional development manager Shaji Prabhakaran, who was earlier incharge of AIFF's grassroots and development programme, to discuss the next step.

Das told IANS that having two world class U-17 academies and preparing a competitive team for the tournament are on top of AIFF agenda.

"This tournament could certainly change the face of the game in the country. FIFA will bear the cost of the tournament, around $7-8 million, but the rest we have to do. The benefits are huge. The quality infrastructure that we will have in the six cities will only boost the sport. The government has promised us full support to get the infrastructure," said Das.

The AIFF secretary general wants all the I-League clubs on board so that an U-14 and U-16 youth league can be started immediately.

"Our top priority remains two world class U-17 academies and a competitive team for the tournament. We also want to start immediately U-14 and U-16 leagues and all the I-League clubs are on board for it. In fact youth leagues is a basic criteria that all the clubs have to meet for the AFC and the national licence," said Das.

Prabhakaran, FIFA regional development manager, told IANS that it will be a big challenge for AIFF.

"It will be a big challenge for India to get everything in place. Youth development is the need of the hour and there could be some FIFA developmental projects in the coming days," said Prabhakaran said.

Das told IANS that AIFF technical director Rob Baan, whose master plan "Lakshya 2022" was put on the back burner by the AIFF for being too costly, has been asked to draw a roadmap for the U-17 national team for the showpiece event.

"Rob Baan has been asked to draw a roadmap for the U-17 World Cup. We have not set any deadline but we know that we have to get things done quickly," he said.

--IANS (Posted on 06-12-2013)

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