AFC tells India to focus of club and player growth

Asian Football Confederation general secretary Peter Velappan wants Indian football clubs to professionally exploit the country's growing economy and the game's increasing popularity. "Our long-term plan is to make India a super power in soccer in Asia," he told a news conference, following a Vision India Club Development Workshop, reported by N Ananthanarayanan of Reuters. "India has the potential, its economy is developing at the rate of eight percent," he said. "Football should not lose out from this development."

Praising club football in Japan but critical of India's situation he warned of the danger of focusing on the national team at the expense of club development. "In Asia, many countries are building the house from the roof," he said. "Eighty percent of the budget is spent on national teams, leaving very little for the rest. Asian football is a golden product but it is still under the ground. We have to dig it, polish it, brand it and market it."

Velappan met officials of India's leading clubs over two days, who backed the move to revamp the national league, which has struggled since its launch in 1996. "The clubs were very positive," he said. "They have come to the limit of their patience."

He said Indian clubs should keep out foreign players for at least five years to nurture home talent and become the feeder line for the national team."I've seen some of them play in the league, they are no better than your players," he said. "With a population of 1.1 billion people, you should be exporting players and not bringing in sub-standard players."

Vellappan also mentioned that clubs participating in the workshop had complained that there was no development in the quality of football and performance of the national team. "One needs to develop youth programmes and a link between schools and clubs who will have age-specific teams," he said. "India has enough people but no mechanism and organisation to promote the game. The government needs to undertake capital expenditure to provide facilities in this regard," he added.

See also: AFC notes progress in 'Delhi Vision" pilot project (30 Sep 05) and India told "not to let the momentum go" (21 Jul 05)