Asian Cup experience should spur India to move ahead: Hammam | sports | Hindustan Times
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Asian Cup experience should spur India to move ahead: Hammam

Asian Football Confederation President Mohammed bin Hammam on Thursday said India's participation in the Asian Cup after a gap of 27 years could see the country taking the first step towards the glory days of the past when they were continental leaders.

sports Updated: Jan 13, 2011 12:51 IST

Asian Football Confederation President Mohammed bin Hammam on Thursday said India's participation in the Asian Cup after a gap of 27 years could see the country taking the first step towards the glory days of the past when they were continental leaders.

India are taking part in the Asian Cup for the first time after 1984 and Bin Hammam forsees the country becoming a strong side in future tournaments.

"I am happy for India to play in Asian Cup after so many years, after long disappearance. I welcome them. The national association, the players and fans in India must be feeling excited that their team is playing in the Asian Cup. I do believe it is the start of the wake up call for India by all means and from here on they should move ahead," Bin Hammam told PTI in an interview.

"India started football in Asia with the first official match being played there in 1854. In the recent past there has been strong development of football in Asia except for India. Football in India has changed from 27 years ago but many countries of the region had gone ahead of India and they have the chance to move forward now.

"In 1988, Japan played in the Asian Cup for the first time when it was held here in Qatar and they could not win a match and failed to get past the group stage. But in the next tournament in 1992, they were the champions. I have a feeling that the same can happen in the case of India. The federation and people of India want change in their football fortunes," said the Qatari, who was recently elected to his third four-year term as AFC chief.

"It is a myth," said Hammam, when queried about India lagging behind mainly due to acute lack of infrastructure in the country.

Asked about his views on FIFA chief Sepp Blatter's reported comments that India could be a potential candidate to host the World Cup in 2026 or after, Bin Hammam said, "Every country has a right and ambition to host big events like the World Cup. It is not in our hands. It is entirely in India's hands and not an external wish."

"If India wants to host the World Cup they will have to show in their bid that they are capable and ready. It depends on the determination of India to take up the challenge," he said.

The AFC chief, however, said India will have to address the issues of lack of football infrastructure if it has to host big international events.

Asked if India should bid for 2019 Asian Cup, Bin Hammam said, "India will have to be ready and naturally infrastructure will have to be developed in a way that it meets today's international football standards."

"Lot of things need to be done. Football is not played in isolation. Countries play against each other and clubs in Asia have become very professional and we know these things are not in India. These are no secrets.

"People know what Qatar have, the stadiums and the facilities which India do not have. It is a myth (why this is happening in India). They will have to address these issues. It is entirely the Indians who will have to do this and fix it. The Indian Clubs will have to be commercial entities if you want to progress further," he said.

Asked if FIFA would continue to support Indian football with projects like 'Win in India with India' started in 2008, Bin Hammam said, "Win Project moves from country to country but the USD eight million FIFA gives is nothing. What will you do with it. This is just a small amount.

"What is important is that there will have to be mass participation in football and part of Indian football must be commercialised and businessmen will see opportunity to enter to football. Commercialisation of Indian football is a must and I am sure it will be a success," he said.

Bin Hammam said those clubs which do not fulfil AFC licensing criteria -- with deadline already over on December 2010 -- would not be allowed to take part in the next I-League.

"The AFC criteria apply to all clubs in all of Asia. It is not on Indian clubs only. The rules will apply. We want to transform part of India football into elite football, as international level football.

"But hardly 12 or 14 top clubs are there in a subcontinent like India. This I feel is just a small drop in a vast ocean. Indian clubs need to take the lead in this development," Hamman said.