AIFF Media Team
NEW DELHI: The AIFF President, Mr. Kalyan Chaubey, has completed 50 days in office. During this period, Indian Football has seen several changes that are aimed at taking the game in the country forward. In a candid chat with the-aiff.com, Mr. Chaubey discussed in detail, all that has come to pass, and all that have been planned for the future of Indian Football. Excerpts:
As the President, you have completed 50 days in office. Can you please tell us about your experience, on issues you have worked on and issues you are going to have a look into?
Kalyan Chaubey: If you remember, on Day One of our assuming office, I promised a new roadmap for Indian Football will be ushered in, in 100 days. Today, I am very happy to say that our internal team is working extremely hard and making a rich plan to give Indian Football a new direction. As far as the completion of 50 days is concerned, it was indeed very hectic. Immediately after our elections were over, we met the FIFA President and thereafter the President of the Qatar Football Association. Back in India, we met the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Odisha (Shri Naveen Patnaik), the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh (Shri Pema Khandu), and the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Goa (Shri Pramod Sawant)….we even went to Assam. We are trying to visit every nook and corner of the country, as many states as possible, and making efforts to take the game ahead with the help of the respective state government and the local administration.
Apart from this, we are going all out to make the coming edition of the Hero I-League a grand success. We are meticulously taking everything into consideration, about how it should be conducted, what should be the timing of the matches, who should be its broadcasters and what should the quality of the broadcasts be.
One more area where we are working very hard is refereeing. We have lots of plans to take it to a greater height. Presently, we are very busy with the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, but at the same time, we are focusing on football at the grassroots with the latest FIFA programme, Football for schools. For this, we have launched a joint venture with the Union Ministry of Education and the FIFA. The AIFF and the Education Ministry will work closely to make this effort a true success. And mind it, this is a programme that will reach out to 2.5 crore children in the country. In our 50 days, we have concentrated equally on doing quite a few things which didn’t happen previously for some reason or the other, and I am happy to say there also we did lots of work. In a nutshell, I can say that the last 50 days have been quite satisfactory.
How important is the ongoing FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup for the progress of women’s football in India?
KC: It’s a huge, truly huge opportunity for Indian women, in my opinion. This, I am sure, will encourage lots of girls in our country to play the game. In fact, only recently, I proposed that there should be no discrimination in the honorarium the men and women footballers receive when they represent the nation. We have also discussed about taking the Hero IWL (Indian Women’s League) to a greater scale and spread it to 30 cities in the country. Yes, I do agree that India’s results in the ongoing U-17 Women’s World Cup haven’t been too good, but the results are temporary. When you play against top teams like the US, Morocco, or Brazil, it gives you the kind of experience that helps take game to the next level.
What are your thoughts on India U-17 Men’s Team’s qualification for the AFC U-17 Asian Cup and your plans for the boys.
KC: Well, we don’t go to a tournament only to play…winning the tournament remains our aim. When the U-17 team does well and qualifies, it also indicates the future turn of events and the prospect of the footballers. We have plans to pick up the boys from this U-17 team along with other talented boys from the same age group, who didn’t get selected for some reason or the other. We want to make a bigger pool and sit down with the coaches and support staff of the U-17 team to chalk out an elaborate strategy so that these boys become the backbone of the national team in U-23 and beyond.
I have met both the U-17 men’s and women’s team separately at different times. I must say that I have noticed a kind of confidence among the footballers in both the teams. I met the U-17 boys’ team in Saudi Arabia when they were in the middle of the qualifiers. I spoke to coach Bibiano (Fernandes) and his support staff and was extremely happy to find that they had the required self-assurance to make the team qualify. It will definitely give everyone the extra confidence on Indian coaches. I am happy that I met the boys and they qualified. I am equally pleased that this qualification has come under an Indian coach.
Fifty days have passed by. What’s the next plan?
KC: I have already informed you that we are soon releasing a roadmap on Indian Football on the completion of our 100 days. We will work to the best of our abilities to make it a success. And I know very well that the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi ji, who is a sports lover and always encourages football, will be with us in this endeavor. At the same time, I urge the Union Sports Ministry and the Education Ministry that it will be of great help if the infrastructure they have across the country are sometimes given for the use of footballing purpose; actually, it will give lots of relief to our expenses.
So, our aim would be to ensure how the state associations could be benefitted with the infrastructural support from the central government as well as the state governments. There could be logistic support like accommodations in the hostels the government has and so many other things. We also have plans to introduce more tournaments. If we can restart the U-21 national championship, it will benefit the India U-23 team. A uniform youth league will be introduced to get the best out of it. The former footballers in every state, maybe those who have played for more than a decade, would be roped in. Their expertise can be used as scouts in youth tournaments.