Saturday, June 10, 2006

India's "Project World Cup" for South Africa 2010

The All India Football Federation has launched Project World Cup which aims to take the national football team to South Africa in 2010. "If this project yields the result, India will be sharing the dais with soccer giants in the FIFA World Cup," AIFF president, Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, said at a World Cup-eve function in New Dehli. "If we fail to do it by 2010, we will try for the next edition of the tournament (in 2014)," he added. At the function, Olympian and former Indian captain, Goswami, said he was banking on India's new coach, Bob Houghton, to deliver the goods. "We had our days of glory in the past, but somehow we could not make it to the World Cup. Now, with a new British coach for the national team, I hope we would finally make it in 2010," he said, as quoted by PTI. Apart from Goswami, present and past stars included Sailen Manna, Syed Nayeemuddin, Inder Singh, Mohd Habib, Prasun Bannerjee, Jo Paul Ancheri and Baichung Bhutia.

However, not all opinion-makers are convinced. Earler, the Hindustan Times compared the football record of China and India: "As in all other departments, the best way to investigate India’s utter ineptitude in the Beautiful Game is to compare it with China. The People’s Republic (ranked 68) ... has qualified to the World Cup finals once. Our Republic (ranked 117) hasn’t. China’s first bid to qualify for the World Cup was made in 1957; India’s was in 1986. While the Football Association of China has a moderately up-and-running Jia A (Top A) League running since 1994, India’s Super League and other domestic fixtures have been on a downward spiral ... The Kuala Lumpur-based Asian Football Confederation was hired to launch ‘Vision India’ in 2005, but we’re still having trouble spotting the goalpost."

And on the AIFF's special function in New Dehli, the newspaper commented: "On Friday evening, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry along with the All India Football Federation — both headed by Priyaranjan Dasmunshi — reportedly arranged for a special viewing of the World Cup opener. Among those invited were Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, several cabinet ministers, MPs, ambassadors and former footballers. India’s World Cup 2010 Qualification Project (sic) was also announced. Now it’s not our business to give Mr Dasmunshi any advice, but there are rumours of Beijing ‘talking cricket’. So maybe it’s wise to keep our eyes on the other World Cup, the one that’s played with a smaller ball, by fewer countries and the one in which, hopefully, the Chinaman will remain a left-arm leg-spin for a very long time."

But with a new professional league in the near future and a new national coach, fresh concepts are now being developed at the AIFF's brand new headquarters. For instance, the involvement in France's World Cup challenge of Vikash Dhorasoo, the Mauritius-born, Paris St Germain midfielder of Indian parentage, is of particular interest to Indian football officials hunting for Indian-linked players in the diaspora. "Anyone who has got the credentials, we are very much interested in," Albert Colaco, AIFF secretary told N. Ananthanarayanan of Reuters. "Now Indian youngsters abroad are taking up football," Colaco said, "India has definitely got (footballing) links, like Senegal and Jamaica." The AIFF has a list of players based in Europe and United States thanks to the help of a German-based portal on Indian football, www.indianfootball.com.

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