Launch of ISL has changed landscape of Indian football: AIFF Gen Secy

Kolkata, July 17 (IANS) The work at All India Football Federation (AIFF)'s National Center of Excellence here has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic and Amphan cyclone in this part of India, but general secretary Kushal Das is confident that most of it would be ready in another year and a half.

After the FIFA men's U-17 World Cup in 2017, AIFF had earmarked a state-of-the-art facility to be the home of national teams across age groups for men and women in the New Town area of Kolkata. It was designed to bring in all critical branches of football development under one umbrella.

“Initially we were thinking of having a smaller centre of excellences across the country. Then after the U-17 World Cup we thought it was the right time to set up a big centre of excellence. The euphoria of the U-17 World Cup final (at Salt Lake Stadium) got us to approach Chief Minister of West Bengal (Mamata Banerjee) and she gave us the land in New Town,” Das said during an interaction on AIFF TV.

“We have been unfortunate in the sense that when we started work there was a severe monsoon in West Bengal. Then COVID-19 pandemic happened followed by Amphan. So work has been slowed down quite a bit.

“We are now beginning to start again. But the other day that was declared as a containment zone. So again a setback for us. The natural turf is ready. It just needs to be handed over. Work on the artificial turf has started. We should have it by December, also the administrative building.

“Although work has been slowed down, we should be able to complete work to a certain extent in another one and one and half years,” Das asserted.

Having joined AIFF in 2010, the general secretary also heaped praise on Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) for helping Indian football grow since coming on board in the same year after the governing body's previous broadcast partners severed ties.

“FSDL has brought in a tremendous amount of value. They have helped in restructuring many of our own events. The launch of ISL has changed the landscape of Indian football.

“The way things are going now…it is 100 times better than what it was in 2010-11. FSDL has played a significant part in helping structure all of it. There a lot of more teams now, there are youth teams and a structure.”

Speaking about FC Goa taking part in the AFC Champions League group stages for the first time, he said: “Clubs must concentrate on doing well in the ACL. Our first endeavour would be to get out of group stages and then in 2-3 years time we should be aiming for the semifinals.”

Das also stressed on the importance of coach education, hoping the men's senior national team will have an Indian coach in the next five years.



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