By Samindra Kunti
May 6 – The All India Football Federation, the AIFF, has launched an ambitious new programme to build its fan and playing base – ‘Mission 11 Million’.
India will host two major football tournaments in 2017 with the U16 Asian Cup and the FIFA U17 World Cup. The AIFF wants to use these tournament to boost interest levels in the game among India’s youth, and in particular children in urban regions.
The ‘Mission 11 Million’ strategy will come into effect in the second half of 2016.
“The idea is to get at least 11 million urban Indian kids involved in football at various levels,” said Kushal Das (pictured), the general secretary of the AIFF. “We are planning to get the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, to launch Mission 11 Million during the BRICS summit in Goa in October. There will be a U17 tournament involving all five nations with all heads of state likely to attend the final when Mission 11 Million will be launched.”
“In March, the Prime Minister mentioned in his monthly radio address to the nation the need to use the FIFA U17 World Cup to get young Indians involved in football,” continued Das. “Subsequently, FIFA and the sports ministry have taken interest in Mission 11 Million and we are expanding the programme from six U17 World Cup venues to about 18 Indian cities.”
The AIFF is robustly ambitious and considers the upcoming FIFA U17 World Cup as a stepping stone to host other FIFA tournaments, notably the FIFA U20 World Cup. India has participated at neither a senior nor in a youth World Cup, but the AIFF seek empowerment for the sport through bidding for more tournaments.
“If the FIFA U17 World Cup is delivered successfully in 2017, there is the thought of staging the Under-20s version in 2021, by which point Mission 11 Million would have achieved its desired objective of increased youth involvement,” explained Das.
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