Blatter: ‘The sleeping giant is waking up’

With football’s popularity increasing, FIFA’s Sepp Blatter says India has a solid chance of hosting Under-17 World Cup.

India football crowd
Blatter is working with the Indian government to help develop the game [GETTY]

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on Friday India has a good chance of hosting the Under-17 World Cup in 2017, which will enable it to play in a world-level football event for the first time.

“I’m very positive about India getting to host the youth World Cup, which will be the first peak for India,” Blatter said at a news conference.

“I’m sure it will be well received by FIFA but India has to develop the game at the grassroots level and prepare its under-17 team to match the expectations.”

“To wake up a sleeping giant you need more than one alarm clock, I can tell you the giant is starting to wake up”

Sepp Blatter

India, who is at No. 158 in the latest FIFA rankings, are planning to bid for the Under-17 World Cup in 2017 as well as the 2015 World Club Championship in a bid to give a boost to the game.

Gautemala and Jamaica are reportedly also in the race to host the 2017 event.

Blatter, who called India a “sleeping giant” on his last visit in 2007, said winning a bid to host the World Club Championship would be a more difficult challenge but he was encouraged to see India taking the initiative.

“To wake up a sleeping giant you need more than one alarm clock, I can tell you the giant is starting to wake up,” Blatter said.

“We’re carefully following the development of football in India. A lot of centers are coming up but a lot still needs to be done if football has to be a top game in the country.

“I know you have another game (cricket) that is at the top, but there is surely place for two games up there. I want to establish football in this country.”

Four academies

Blatter met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil during his one-day visit.

“I brought to the Prime Minister’s notice, the need to have more land to develop infrastructure for the game. I’m happy with my meetings with them and they seemed very positive,” Blatter said.

FIFA has been helping to set up four academies in Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi, which will be venues for the Under-17 World Cup if India gets the tournament.

The event is expected to raise the profile of Indian football, which has attracted a lot of interest in recent years.

Foreign clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and Bayern Munich have organised several activities to try to tap into their fan base in the country of 1.2 billion people.

Indian companies too have been investing in the game. English Premier League club Blackburn Rovers have an Indian owner in Venky’s, a chicken company headquartered in the western city of Pune.

Other Indian firms have bought franchises in a Premier League Soccer tournament to be held in the eastern state of West Bengal from next month while the All India Football Federation has also managed to bring in some money.

IMG-Reliance – a partnership between IMG Worldwide and Indian company Reliance Industries Ltd. – signed a 15-year deal in 2010 worth $140 million for all commercial rights to promote and market football in India.

Source: AP