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Brazil to play soccer saviour Blueprint for India pact

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  • Published 22.05.07

Brasilia, May 22: When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva sit down together in New Delhi next month to advance the strategic dialogue between the two countries, their backroom boys will be working on an agenda that will uplift Indo-Brazilian ties into an enduring people-to-people partnership reminiscent of the heights of Indo-Soviet relations three decades ago.

Accompanying President Lula to India, although on a separate itinerary, will be a six-member national football delegation from Brazil, the only five-time champions in the World Cup.

Led by Fabio Andre Koff, President of Clube dos 13, an umbrella organisation of Brazil’s top 20 football clubs, the delegation hopes to start discussions with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to sign a bilateral cooperation agreement to enhance the standing of Indian football.

India ranks 165th globally in this month’s ranking of world football by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the world’s governing body for the game.

That dismal condition is set to change if an eight-point agenda to be discussed between Koff and AIFF leaders in about 10 days in New Delhi is implemented soon thereafter.

The bilateral cooperation agreement to be negotiated between the two sides during the Brazilian President’s visit to New Delhi will allow Indian football players to train at Brazilian professional football clubs.

Koff told The Telegraph in an extensive exchange of communication and documents related to Brazilian football’s plans for India that these Indian players, “depending on the time of the year could participate in official games of their teams at the Brazilian National Football Championship”.

The agreement will provide for Indian coaches and assistant coaches to spend time with Brazilian professional football teams “in order to have a hands-on apprentice(ship) on the football techniques” in Brazil and to improve their coaching capabilities.

In addition, football clinics will be held in India where Clube dos 13 experts will share their “expertise in coaching, refereeing, nutrition, sports science and club management”.

The proposed agreement has provisions for 10-12-year-old young Indians identified with football potential to go on learning trips to Brazil as part of a long-term plan to nurture the game in India.

There are also plans for Brazilian clubs to participate in friendly football tournaments in India.

Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s ambassador in Brasilia, said the Brazilians were looking at the possibility of getting Indian corporate entities to sponsor Brazilian teams or tournaments to enhance bilateral awareness of each other.

He said Koff and his delegation was expected to meet AIFF President Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and vice-president Praful Patel in New Delhi on June 4.Joao Gilberto Vaz, Clube dos 13’s representative for the Asian Pacific region, said a parallel side to the proposed football cooperation with India consisted of plans to telecast Brazilian football matches in India.

Koff’s delegation will travel to Mumbai after Lula’s visit and meet the Burdwan-born film director Shakti Samanta to discuss the possibility of making films on football in Bollywood for Indian and Brazilian audiences.

In Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro, this reporter saw emotive documentaries on football matches played by physically handicapped Brazilians and rags-to-riches tales of footballers being lapped up by audiences.

The idea now is to get Bollywood to enhance the techniques for such films and to promote such ventures commercially in both India and Brazil.

The arrival of the Brazilian football delegation to India comes close on the heels of a pioneering visit by Fifa president Joseph Blatter to Calcutta and New Delhi last month.

Blatter envisioned “waking up a sleeping giant” in Indian football and was received by both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

The Brazilians believe they are equipped in guiding Indian football to greater heights by the experience of their countryman Jose Ramirez Barreto’s association with Mohun Bagan.

Brazil has already contributed two other players and one physical trainer to Indian football.