On a visit to the Capital to chair the third meeting of the ad-hoc committee on professionalisation of football in India, Asian Football Confederation chief, Mohammad bin Hammam, lamented the lack of progress made by the country in the past six decades.
“Not much has happened since my last visit here in 2007. India has a population of 1.2 billion and a vibrant economy. Football is developing rapidly in many parts of Asia but India is way behind. You should not accept this at all,” he said.
“Football in India has a long history. The first recorded match was held in India in 1854, 100 years before Asian Football Confederation was established in 1954 in Manila. You have the second and fourth oldest tournaments in the world (in Durand Cup and IFA Shield). But frankly speaking, India is lagged behind the rest of Asia.”
The AFC has laid down strict criteria for the professionalisation of clubs and bin Hammam asked the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to take tough decisions against clubs that did not meet the requirements.
The AIFF too has made it clear that clubs that fail the AFC test will not be allowed to compete in the next I-League.
Bin Hammam laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of the clubs. Big clubs, particularly the Kolkata giants, have often been accused of refusing to move with the times. “The AIFF is just one of the stakeholders. It is already doing more than most, but the clubs are resisting the AFC professional criteria.
“It is natural, because meeting the criteria will require effort on their part. But, resist or not, they have to meet club licensing criteria if they want to be in the professional league. Tough decisions will have to be taken by courageous people.
“Fortunately, the current AIFF administration doesn’t lack such people,” said bin Hammam.