Real challenge begins now: Praful Patel

New Delhi, Dec 5: Winning the hosting rights for the FIFA U-17 World Cup could not have come at a better time for India, but the real challenge begins now, All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel said Thursday.

India was awarded the rights ahead of Ireland, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and 2010 FIFA World Cup hosts South Africa.

The decision was taken at the FIFA executive committee meeting, held Dec 4-5 at Sauipe Fun Hotel, Salvador de Bahia, Brasil.

“For a country like India, the priority stays to make a mark on the world stage and the FIFA U-17 World Cup hosting rights could not have come at a better time,” Patel said in an AIFF statement.

“However, the real challenge begins now. Together with all stakeholders we need to host it in the best possible manner and set an example for all to follow. At the same time, we understand the need to be competitive in the tournament.”

Patel said the challenge for the AIFF for now is to form a U-17 team that could compete against the world’s best.

“The Academies and Grassroot Project set up by AIFF has already made an impact and with the guidance of our technical team headed by technical director Robert Baan, we would be embarking on a detailed plan to build a competitive U-17 Indian national team,” he said.

“The very fact that our boys will be getting a chance to rub shoulders with the best of the world is amazing. The overall infrastructure of the country will also be improved to be at par with the international standards, which will benefit Indian football immensely.”

Patel thanked the government and sports ministry for providing the necessary bank guarantees that helped India submit a successful bid.

“I would also like to thank the government of India and the sports ministry for giving us all the necessary guarantees without which we wouldn’t have been able to bid for the U-17 World Cup.”

IANS