Sunday, November 2, 2014

We must look at the I-league as our product, not the ISL: Praful Patel

Mr. Praful Patel, President, AIFF

"I’m happy to be here today and speak about Indian football. It’s been a few weeks into the ISL and it’s an ambitious and enlightened endeavor on behalf of the AIFF to bring football to the masses and enhance its popularity and bring more responses to the game.

"As you know we have the I-league which is the principal league in the country. We have been working over the years to upgrade and professionalize the league, bring it on par with other leagues and to boost the popularity of football in the country. After a lot of deliberation we thought that a shorter format of the game coupled with entertainment and glamour would be a booster for the game and eventually help boost the popularity of football and help football in the long run. Ours is the only federation from 209 members who has been allowed to have a tournament of this nature, the ISL. It took two years for us to convince FIFA about this. It’s a great opportunity for us to host a tournament such as the ISL. This is the reason why the entire global footballing community is looking at ISL closely. My only request to viewers is to be patient. It’s a new experiment and we need to ensure that Indian football grows.

"Lets not lose focus from the I-League. Like I’ve said before, it’s the backbone of Indian football. Only teams that participate in the I-league will be able to move up the ladder in terms of AFC championships and so on. ISL teams do not have that opportunity.  The I-league needs to be strengthened. Once the following of the teams improve we will have a better chance to bring in more youngsters in ISL teams which will help in offering exposure to our young players. 

"There are two teams in the ISL who are also connected to the I-league  – FC Goa and North East United.  I have been in discussions with ISL owners. They have been discussion on how to bring their teams into the I-league. Over a period of time, there will be an exercise where the I-league and ISL can come closer and strengthen both the formats in due course.
We have got the World Cup under 17 in 2017 which is the first FIFA tournament to come to India. We are also bidding for the Club World Championships in 2017 and 2018. When we win the bid, only the I-league clubs can play as the Indian entry. We will also get the World Cup under 20 in the next five years.

"Goa is a great place for Indian football. There is a passion for the game which exists in this beautiful state. I urge the govt of Goa to build world class football stadiums in the state. We request the other states to do the same.

Q & A:
Is there a difference in your opinion between pre and post ISL?
Its too early. It’s just been a few weeks. There is a lot of interest in Indian football because of the ISL, because of the international players and coaches. In Goa you have seen how Zico and Pires have brought in a lot of interest and enthusiasm from fans. Also best practices have been brought in with the ISL. Additionally better football coverage has helped ISL. The quality of television coverage between a game played at the ISL and an international game is almost the same. Moreover the teams have been putting in a lot effort into the matches.
The response to ISL has been amazing. Will there be a same approach in the I-league?
I’ll give you an example. The Bengaluru FC I-league team is putting in just as much effort as an ISL team is.  The stadiums are going full, they have banners and jerseys, they are on social media. There is a lot of interest in the teams. Bharat Fauj is also interested in getting into the I-league. In a matter of time a lot of teams will come into the I-league. There has been some unhappiness over the club licensing criteria, but the clubs have been given 5 years since 2009. And last year we gave a dispensation to all clubs and extended the deadline.
Yesterday Zico said there are too many foreign players at the ISL. There should be more Indian players. Your comments.
That suggestion is good. But I must tell you that I-league allows 4 players on field. We must look at the I-league as our product, not the ISL. We are focused on the growth of Indian football and that’s why we appreciate the efforts of the ISL and club owners who are doing so much to popularize football.


What was going on through your mind during the last few minutes of the game?
I’m an optimistic guy. I believe till the end that the best will happen. As a player and a coach I lost and won many games at the last minute. In football anything can happen. I thank all the FC Goa supporters for the love, encouragement and support we received through the weeks. Even when we were not winning. We can now gift them this win. It’s the first win of many.

Can you update us on the injuries of Andre Santos and Gregory?
Andre Santos was hit on his leg at the last game. It happened again this time so he couldn’t continue with the game. Gregory was complaining about his knee before the game so I thought it best to keep him out. I think Andre’ injury is not too serious, but maybe Gregory’s may be because its his knee and its more complicated. We will have to wait 48 hours to access the seriousness of the situation.

Jewel, Romeo and Mandar played well. Will they have more chances in next games?
I always say to my players, I don’t have 11, I have 27 players so everyone has to be ready to play. Everyone will get an opportunity to play so they have to be prepared always. When I came here, Jewel was the first 11, but in a friendly he was injured. Now he’s better and I’m happy for him. He played well. All the players are ready and will get an opportunity to play.

Jewel you scored and got man of the match. You must be happy?
Yes I’m happy. I was injured and recovered slowly. Thanks to my coach, who trusted me and offered me a chance to play the match. I’m very happy

Whats the problems with Indian football?
From what I see, there should be better grassroots development especially at the under 15 and under 17 level. If we prepare then when they are young, we will be able to see better footballers and can nurture talent. Indian coaches can see such good players at the ISL and they can show their younger players the techniques.

The team has been missing chances. Would you be frustrated if they missed chances and didn’t score?
Im very happy because they created opportunities even though they didn’t score earlier. It shows the progress we have made over the weeks. Sometimes they choose the wrong option when they need to play a particular move. There are things the players need to learn. But it doesn’t happen overnight. We have to wait and be patient. Results will follow.  At practice I try to teach players to make certain moves. There was pressure to win today, so the team may have been a bit reckless and we missed some opportunities. But I’m happy to see them fight and give their everything.

--- Press Release
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