Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Without facilities, India can dream for "100 years"

Asian Football Confederation President Mohammad Bin Hammam believes foreign investors are`interested in buying Indian clubs. In India's capital, New Dehli with FIFA President Joseph Sepp Blatter, he told reporters "there are investors who are willing to come here and buy Indian clubs, even though I don't know whether this is possible under the laws here. But they are serious investors. Last evening, Sepp Blatter also told me that had he been little younger, he himself would have loved to come and buy a club here."

Hammam, however, minced no words on the problems of football in india. "It was an honour to visit three of India's biggest clubs in Kolkata but frankly speaking, they only have the history. As AFC President, I did not see any future. Sorry, but I'm saying so as son of the same continent. I have to put all my cards on the table," he said. "With the kind of facilities they have, India should not even dream of being in the World Cup for another 100 years," he remarked. "With a 1.1 billion population, you need at least 11,000 clubs. Out of this 11,000 you need only 30-40 clubs to play professional football," Hammam said.

Hammam didn't find any faults with the standard of amateur football in the country, which is on level terms with the rest of the continent, but he stressed for corporate support to get India on the world map. "FIFA, AFC and All India Football Federation will take care of amateur football and Asia is already the number one continent in that respect. But that is not going to take you to the World Cup. For that, you need corporate support. India has the potential in professional soccer but is the industry ready to grab the opportunity?"

Hammam, however, offered a more opportunist approach if things worked with proper administration and facilities. "If Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting and other clubs get the right administration and facilities, can they compete with clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea? From experience, I can say, yes, they can," he said. "And then you have such a huge fan base, which some of the big clubs can't dream. Apart from your population, you have an Indian community spread all over the world. I pray the industry would be convinced that there is an opportunity to partner Indian football in this endeavour," Hamam added.

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