Sunday, April 22, 2007

Blatter in India: "Almost as if I'm visiting prisoners"

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter spoke to Sanjeeb Mukherjea of CNN-IBN about his mission to India [selected extracts]:

"What I have seen now is that what India need is help. They need to wake the "sleeping giant" up now, because Indian football at a certain time was a very important part during the Asian Cup in 1961 or 1962. But now, where is the Indian national team? Where are the Indian clubs? Therefore, something must be done. We have realised in FIFA when going into the geographical map, that we have neglected, I have to say, we have neglected the 'giant' India a little bit, also the sub-continent, with more than 1 billion people. We are coming a little bit late, but then we will have more speed to go forward in a project which is called "Win in India with India".

"We will do it together. We have the Asian Football Confederation, they have their “Vision Asia” which has started here, grassroots football. Together with India, we will have to do it. But not only with football, we need the support from all other components. This is our society finally - social, culture, economy and politics - everybody shall be together and we need people to support it, because we are suffering here for the popularity of another sport called cricket.

"I have to say, the overwhelming enthusiasm goes under the skin, and it was not plain, it was coming from their heart. When I went inside the stadia later on, and young people were not admitted to the visit of the FIFA President, and they were behind barriers, and then they waved their hands through the barriers. This is something that gave me the impression, almost as if I’m visiting prisoners and they are happy about the visit ...

"Chuni Goswami asked me, “Our players are physically not so fit.” So I said “If you have not enough physical institutes to put your players on the best possible physical shape, then something is wrong.” But you have one billion people, and you cannot do that? I’m sure you have the talent and the intelligence. You are such a cultured nation, India is such a cultured nation, millenniums of cultures here in this country, different cultures. This means that you have the basic intelligence other countries don’t have. And football is an intelligent game, and they should better go to football, and to other games here. I have nothing against cricket, but basketball is also such an intelligent game ..."

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