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En Route To The Top

What is the aim of Win in India with India? Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi (President of the All India Football Federation): The President of FIFA clearly identified India as a leading country in the development of football. There is very high potential here. We have already begun to make im¬provements in terms of the professional game. FIFA and the AFC have set up a very detailed roadmap to enable us to make the kind of progress already seen in emerging Asian countries, and maybe even on a level with the up-and-coming European nations, in the next five to six years.
One of the main areas that you will be working on is the I-League …
Dasmunsi: We launched the Indian professional championship last year, with ten teams on board, and the season has just finished with Dempo SC finishing top of the league ahead of Churchill Brothers on goal difference. The championship was decided on the last day so it was a real cliff-hanger of a first season. Next year there will be 14 teams and we aim to have 16 by 2012, a 14-team second division and a ten-team third division.
And how do you intend to improve the standard of the national team?
Dasmunsi: It’s true that the national team’s results have not been satisfactory, which is why the first measure that we will be implementing is to stick to the international calendar of friendly matches, and that’s what we’re working on at the moment. Our aim is to climb the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. We made some progress last year when we won the Nehru Cup, one of Asia’s foremost tournaments.
Your U-16 team, on the other hand, has been a pleasant surprise, qualifying impressively for the AFC championship in their age group … Dasmunsi: Yes, qualifying for the Asian U-16 Championship in Uzbekistan is an early sign of how Indian football is progressing. We managed to beat or hold our own against some of the big names likes Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Thanks to the support of a number of major Indian companies, the team was able to travel to Portugal and the United States to prepare for the tournament and that was a great help. We’re holding out a great deal of hope for this team.
What are your five main aims as president of the All India Football Federation?
Dasmunsi: First of all, to develop the foundations of football in India and in particular amongst kids. Secondly, I want to improve the infrastructure of the clubs and the federations in every Indian state. Thirdly, to use the support of FIFA and the AFC to install artificial pitches around the country. Fourth, to have a scientific approach to refereeing and physical development among professional clubs and finally, what all of these points are aiming towards: reaching the world’s top level by 2014 or 2018.