The under-17 World Cup is less than 100 days away but the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has set its sights on another major global event. The federation’s president Praful Patel said they have reached out to FIFA to discuss the possibility of hosting the under-20 World Cup in 2019. The AIFF submitted an ‘expression of interest’ on Tuesday and are waiting to hear from FIFA if they will allot back-to-back tournaments to Asia before submitting an official bid. This year’s youth championship, which was won by England, was hosted in South Korea. FIFA generally does not give away consecutive tournaments to countries from one continent but the AIFF is hoping they will make an exception this time round.
Their plans, however, do not end here. The AIFF is also mulling a bid for the 2023 Asian Cup but an even more ambitious plan is being prepared for the current under-17 squad. Inspired by their Chinese counterparts, AIFF is mulling the idea of making the under-17 team play in a European league for at least two seasons after the World Cup.
Last month, a Chinese U-20 team joined the fourth tier of the German Bundesliga. “The idea is to make the team play in the second or third division of a reputed European under-18 or under-19 league for at least two years. If it works out the way we have planned, it will really help player development,” Das said.
The India U-17 squad has travelled across the globe as a part of their exposure tours ahead of the October 6 to 28 event. Das said they will try to firm up their plans by the time the World Cup ends to continue the team’s development programme. Although he didn’t divulge further details, it is learnt that the AIFF has had informal talks with a couple of federations, one of them being Portugal. However, no official proposal has been made yet. The AIFF plans to send a squad of around 25 players plus the support staff if their proposal is accepted.
The federation is also considering to join China and South Korea in the race to host the 2023 Asian Cup. After missing the 2015 edition, India is set to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup in UAE as they lead their qualifying group with two wins in two matches. “The bidding has not yet started. Once it begins, we can look at that,” Das said.
Meanwhile, the AIFF will have six months to prepare and submit their bid if FIFA says it is open to the idea of hosting consecutive U-20 World Cups in Asia. “We will wait to hear from them. Hopefully, they will consider our request. If not, we will respect their decision,” Das said.