Birthday boy and iconic Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri on Monday said talent is not the problem in the country and all stakeholders need to ensure that the next crop of players are well looked after.
“Talent is not the problem here. We could have plenty of Olympic gold medals. I know how hard the AIFF works to get a bigger pool of players. It is very important to give the young talented players the right food, training and so on. When all this is done, it can be a monumental growth,” Chhetri, who turned 36 on Monday, said during the E-Delhi summit organised by Football Delhi to celebrate the occasion of his birthday.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel lauded the Government of Odisha for setting an example of how a state government can help sports thrive in a particular region.
“I think states like Odisha need to be commended. They have actively supported every sport. That is something that other state governments should follow too,” Patel said.
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, AFC General Secretary Dato Windsor John, Jagdish Mitra, Chief Strategic Officer, Tech Mahindra, Football Delhi President Shaji Prabhakaran were also present in the virtual meet, as was talismanic captain Chhetri.
Patel, during the discussion, highlighted the progress that the All India Football Federation has made forward together over the last decade.
“We have come a long way. Globally FIFA now acknowledges that Indian football has to be supported and strengthened for the sport to grow in the region. FIFA and AFC have made it clear that football has to be commercially viable and it has to support the overall ecosystem around it,” he opined.
“That is why it is important to professionalise the sport. The I-League was the first step towards that. Now, the ISL has taken it further and made more additions to Indian football.”
Sports Minister Rijiju lauded the AIFF for bringing FIFA events to India (2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup and the 2021 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup).
“I complement AIFF for engaging with FIFA to bring this tournament. With such tournaments being hosted in India we will have a brilliant situation where the sport will further mature,” he said. “We will ensure that the U-17 Women’s World Cup is one of the most successful FIFA events in India.”