All India Football Federation president Praful Patel said that the federation’s next goal is to see India break into the top 50 of the FIFA rankings and hopefully qualify for the 2022 World Cup. Speaking at the AIFF awards ceremony, Patel said that these are times of “revolution for Indian football.”
“India breaking into 100 may sound easy but it itsn’t. A lot of effort has gone in from every player and the coach” remarked Patel. When the Indian team entered the top 100 of the FIFA rankings, it was the first time in nearly two decades that the team had done so. “I think the next big thing is to break into top 50. That is our next goal. By 2022, [India] atleast hope to qualify for World Cup” said Patel.
Patel also criticised the negativity that surrounded the Indian U-17 team’s win in Italy. It was earlier reported in the AIFF release that the team had defeated the Italian U-17 team. It later turned out that the side that they defeated was not even a second string team of Italy’s U-17 unit and that the match was not listed on the Italian football association’s official website. Patel said that the U-17 team will the backbone of Indian football in the future. “These under 17 boys will be the backbone of the Indian team. We saw them beat Syria. We beat an Italian team [but there was so much] negativity. It was about applauding the young children and making India proud. Instead, we go into negativity,” he said.
Patel also highlighted the role women have to play in ulifting the sport in the country. “Women have an important role to play,” he said, “Everyone enjoys cricket as one of the most popular games. The day when football is followed by [an] enire family, it will be a success. I must tell you, if you put heart and soul [into it], women’s team can make [the country proud] like the men’s team.”