Blatter says India could host U17 World Cup

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said 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.”

India, which is at No. 158 in the latest FIFA rankings, is

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 encourages 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.”

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

added.

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 organized 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 has 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.