Indian professional league 'can kick-off' in October

The proposed Professional Football League of the All India Football Federation might see the light of the day by October 2007. “After our meetings with the parties concerned and weighing the issues at hand, we strongly feel that India can kick-off its professional league by October 2007,” Jean Michael Benezet, technical advisor to the FIFA, told Aditya Kumar of Express India. “We have a five-year-plan for the league. It would be conducted in a phased manner. Right now very few teams satisfy the criteria of a professional club side, so we have to make certain concessions to accommodate more teams in the league. But we believe that by 2012 we would have a fully-functional professional football league in India,” Benezet added.

The FIFA technical advisor, along with David Borja, FIFA Development Officer, Asia-Oceania, met officials from top clubs from India during their five-day tour in the country. According to FIFA norms, a professional side should have a qualified and devoted set of technical, administrative, medical and coaching staff. Among facilities, they should have a clubhouse, an administrative office, a developmental side (U-19, U-21), an academy, a youth programme and should have control over a full-time practice and playing ground.

“We are not expecting clubs to fulfill the norms immediately. Instead we would give them a time-frame, where gradually they can proceed towards a professional set up. A country like India should have at least 16 teams in the top league and that is precisely the number we are targeting for 2012,” said Benezet, a former French international. “India needs to restructure their competitions. The quality has to go up, and from what I have seen in some video clippings, the players are far better than what the ranking shows. It simply means you have to work on the organisational structure; the quality of play will improve automatically if the conditions of play improve,” he said.

AIFF secretary Alberto Colaco is confident. “We have a clear-cut goal, a plan in place and the backing from top bodies like FIFA, Asian Football Confederation, the Deutsche Fußball Liga and the Japanese federation. So we are positive. All we need is some patience from the people,” he said.

See also: FIFA checks professionalism of Mumbai clubs (12 Feb)