Former captain Chuni Goswami feels the upcoming FIFA Under-17 World Cup has set the house in order in Indian football and it’s time to set targets for bigger goals.
Being the hosts, India have automatically qualified for the October 6-28 tournament, a first FIFA event in the country. “We have nothing to lose from here on. Yes, India maybe nowhere in world football at the moment but we can set our target now,” the 79-year-old told PTI.
“In two to three years time, about 80 to 90 percent of these players will go on to graduate to the next level. Many will become future stars in world football.
“We have the opportunity to see the future Messis and Neymars. All the teams will send their best talents at this level,” he added. Goswami said a place in the knock-out stages in the Under-17 World Cup will be big boost for Indian football.
“India must make it count and do well. Quarterfinal may look unrealistic but it would be a great achievement if they make it to the knock-outs (last-16),” he said about the prospect of India, who are clubbed alongside USA, Colombia and Ghana in Group A.
The Mohun Bagan star is highly impressed with the Saltlake Stadium that will go on to host the final of the event on October 28.
“Look at the Saltlake Stadium. The Under-17 World Cup has done wonders to the infrastructure. It’s the best in the country now and befitting that it’s hosting the grand final,” he said.
But Goswami is not keen on going to the stadium to watch the matches. “I will rather watch on TV. I’m too old to go the stadium
and watch a match,” he said.
India have already shown interest to host the Under-20 World Cup in 2019 but Goswami feels the need is to strengthen the base and not overlook the I-League which is struggling to find its feet in presence of the lucrative Indian Super League.
“If we strengthen the grassroot level, the future would be secured. Indian Super League has done a great job in popularising football.
But it mostly has ageing stars. I feel I-League is very important and there should be every move to make it more competitive,” he concluded.