AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey, and FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, Arsene Wenger addressed the media in the city the day after India’s FIFA World Cup Qualifier Round 2 against Qatar, to discuss the paths to develop Indian Football, and to enhance its youth development system, on Wednesday, November 22, 2023.
AIFF Vice President NA Haris, Treasurer Kipa Ajay and Acting Secretary General Satyanarayan M were present on the occasion.
While Mr. Wenger said that most people want to win the next match, though that is something that needs huge preparation, Mr. Chaubey conveyed that he was not here to sell a dream but to ensure Indian football moved in the right direction in the next few years and reached its desired goal.
Mr. Chaubey, who was present at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday, said that football in India is on the brink of history. They were also present for the opening of the first-ever AIFF-FIFA Talent Academy, in the Odisha capital.
“We are operating at a time that will eventually go down in history. Perhaps we do not realise it right now, but one day, these steps will be talked about,” said Mr. Chaubey.
“We feel honoured that FIFA considers our federation as one that has a huge potential for further development, and I welcome all to be a part of it. Let us all share knowledge, exchange ideas, and listen to what Mr. Wenger says,” implored Mr. Chaubey. “FIFA has not given us a magic button to develop football or qualify for the World Cup. Rather, they are here to guide and support us.”
Mr. Wenger believes that India has a massive potential in football, though he says that the country needs to play to its strengths in order to climb the ladder.
“I am very happy to be in India, and I have seen huge potential here. We can all do better together. The one thing I am certain of is that, be it in football or any other field, we can only progress through educating young people,” said Mr. Wenger.
“You have strengths and weaknesses, 1.5 billion people are a huge number, and that makes for a huge potential. It is important for our countries to show their strengths. Sports creates jobs all over the world. India is booming economically, and you have the chance to develop the most popular sport in the world. The clubs are the key for you to develop the players, and we need them to help the country develop on the footballing front,” he said.
India have often been referred to as the “Sleeping giants of football”, but Mr. Wenger begged to differ.
“The giant is here and is heading for hiding. No more sleeping here in this house. That’s how the AIFF is now. This creates a lot of possibilities,” he said.
“The world of football is moving forward and 20 percent of the population cannot be left behind. So, you have to come on board and move forward. We can all see that the giant of football is awake, and we will definitely see some football development.”