| Joseph Blatter in New Delhi on Monday. (AFP)
New Delhi: Indian football has a perfect past, but Fifa president Sepp Blatter believes that is not enough to ensure a bright future.
The Fifa president, who arrived in the capital from Calcutta on Monday for a two-day visit, said India was leaning on the “past, past century.”
If Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohamed Bin Hammam hit Indian football where it hurts most with his statement “it will take another 100 years for India to play the World Cup,” Blatter also made his displeasure known about the state of affairs.
Addressing leading Indian businessmen at a function organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Blatter mentioned the dilapidated infrastructure of the three premier Calcutta clubs.
“Mohun Bagan club was established before Fifa, in the past, past century. Its infrastructure is from that century only,” Blatter said about India’s National club.
It was ironical that sitting next to Blatter was Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, who has been at the helm of Indian football for two decades.
The severe rap on the knuckles from the Fifa president did not seem to bother Das Munshi. “Blatter doesn’t know the Maidan in Calcutta belongs to the Army and not the clubs. We are helpless,” the AIFF chief said.
Das Munshi wasn’t ready to accept moral responsibility.
“We have a solution now,” he offered. “During Blatter’s meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, I raised this topic. The PM has assured me he will talk to the Ministry of Defence and solve this problem.”
Blatter also wondered why India needed a gigantic stadium like the Salt Lake. “To fill up such a big stadium, you need to play attractive football and maintain the stadium. Here, you should have stadia that can accommodate 30,000 to 40,000 people.”
Das Munshi put the finger on the Defence Ministry for the big clubs’ dilapidated infrastructure, but not everyone was in the mood to buy that argument.
“They run the show, so they have to take the blame,” said Derrick Pereira, India’s most successful club coach in recent years.
“Have they built up the required infrastructure' Have they done anything to increase the number of good coaches' The AIFF should take responsibility.”
Former national coach Sukhwinder Singh was sympathetic. “When something goes wrong, the head of the family has to take the blame. The AIFF should sit down with all concerned and overhaul the system.”
Chuni Goswami, the captain of India’s gold medal-winning team at the 1962 Asian Games, agreed with Blatter but was not ready to point fingers. “Why try to find a scapegoat when the need of the hour is to work together,” he argued. “It hasn’t happened because of lack of foresight.”
Indian skipper Bhaichung Bhutia echoed similar opinion. “What the Fifa president said is nothing new. We have been hearing it for the past so many years. There is no system in India to encourage young boys. There is no professionalism here.”
Bhutia, as always, was bang on target.