India can qualify for 2022 Football World Cup: Tendulkar

Kolkata, Dec 22: A month after bidding an emotional adieu to cricket, the game’s legend Sachin Tendulkar Sunday rooted for Indian football saying the country has a realistic chance of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Upbeat over India earning the right to host the 2017 under-17 World Cup football tournament, Tendulkar said the country needed to exploit the “great platform” and take gradual steps by focusing more on the process.

“We need to be realistic and focus more on the process. We need to take gradual steps. As long as we take gradual steps and focus on the process, the results will be there. You cannot climb straight to the 100th floor. You need to climb from the ground floor,” Tendulkar said at the unveiling of the original FIFA World Cup trophy here.

He stressed on proper planning and building top class soccer infrastructure

“The Under-17 World Cup is a great platform and to play in the World Cup you need to have lot of planning, hard work, ensure facilities and build up infrastructure. The Under-17 World Cup will provide all that India has a realistic chance of participating in the 2022 World Cup finals,” he said.

Turning to 1983, when India lifted the cricket world cup for the first time, Tendulkar said seeing the trophy in skipper Kapil Dev’s hands had made him dream of being in the same position one day.

“1983 was an important year of my life and seeing the world cup in Kapil Dev’s hand was a special moment. And when I saw that, I told myself I want to be in that position one day and hold that trophy.”

“That’s when the dream started and I had to wait 22 years (since beginning his international career in 1989) to realise that dream,” he said, referring to India’s triumph in the 2011 World Cup.

The trophy, brought to India by sponsors Coca Cola, is now on a 90-country tour, with India being the 52nd stop.

Unveiled by Brazilian 1970 World Cup winning captain Carlos Alberto Torres, the trophy was brought to India from Nepal and will be taken to Myanmar Dec 25.

Regarded as one of the best defenders of all time, Carlos said he sincerely hoped to see India play the World Cup some day.

“There is lot of talent in India. It is important to nurture talent,” said the 69 year old Carlos as he too wished to see India in the world cup.

“There were a billion people and I was the one to hold the trophy it was a huge privilege,”said Carlos, one of the six ambassadors of the 2014 FIFA World Cup to be staged in Brazil.

Besides a host of football officials, Indian sporting greats Chuni Goswami and Gurbux Singh as well as former India cricketer Sourav Ganguly were present at the programme.

“Unfortunately, football has taken a beating now and I want to see it back to where it was. I am sure the under-17 world cup will bring kids back to football. Like we had Sachin and (Rahul) Dravid and now (Virat) Kohl is in cricket, I hope we see such things in football,” said Ganguly.