Asian football chief rues India’s lack of progress

Asian football chief Mohamed Bin Hammam on Tuesday slammed India’s almost stagnant development in the sport, saying the country had not realised its vast potential.

“You have the population, the economy, the talent needed to become a successful footballing nation, but unfortunately I have not seen much happening,” Hammam, who is Qatari, told reporters.

“In football, all the stakeholders need to perform. I think the main barrier preventing football development in India is the lack of infrastructure.”

Hammam, president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), was in New Delhi for a meeting of its special committee on the development of Indian professional football and said the sport received little support in the country.

“The AIFF (All India Football Federation) is only one element in a vast network of stakeholders,” he said. “You have the central government, the state governments, sponsors, fans, media and so many more stakeholders.”

India, currently ranked a lowly 138th in the world, have never played in the World Cup and their last Olympic appearance was 50 years ago, despite finishing fourth in the 1956 Melbourne Games.

Hammam said Indian football had a long history, having hosted the world’s second oldest tournament, the Durand Cup, since 1888.

“There is no reason why India should lag behind the rest of Asia,” he said.

“India’s involvement with football is certainly deep. The AFC believes we cannot succeed with whatever we do in Asia without India taking on and playing a leading role.”

India have qualified for the Asian Cup in Qatar in January where they face a tough draw against Australia, South Korea and Bahrain in group C.