Philem Dipak Singh
Doha, Jan 13 (PTI) Asian Football Confederation PresidentMohammed bin Hammam today said India''s participation in theAsian Cup after a gap of 27 years could see the country takingthe first step towards the glory days of the past when theywere continental leaders.
India are taking part in the Asian Cup for the first timeafter 1984 and Bin Hammam forsees the country becoming astrong side in future tournaments.
"I am happy for India to play in Asian Cup after so manyyears, after long disappearance. I welcome them. The nationalassociation, the players and fans in India must be feelingexcited that their team is playing in the Asian Cup. I dobelieve it is the start of the wake up call for India by allmeans and from here on they should move ahead," Bin Hammamtold PTI in an interview.
"India started football in Asia with the first officialmatch being played there in 1854. In the recent past there hasbeen strong development of football in Asia except for India.
Football in India has changed from 27 years ago but manycountries of the region had gone ahead of India and they havethe chance to move forward now.
"In 1988, Japan played in the Asian Cup for the firsttime when it was held here in Qatar and they could not win amatch and failed to get past the group stage. But in the nexttournament in 1992, they were the champions. I have a feelingthat the same can happen in the case of India. The federationand people of India want change in their football fortunes,"said the Qatari, who was recently elected to his thirdfour-year term as AFC chief.
"It is a myth," said Hammam, when queried about Indialagging behind mainly due to acute lack of infrastructure inthe country.
Asked about his views on FIFA chief Sepp Blatter''sreported comments that India could be a potential candidate tohost the World Cup in 2026 or after, Bin Hammam said, "Everycountry has a right and ambition to host big events like theWorld Cup. It is not in our hands. It is entirely in India''shands and not an external wish."
"If India wants to host the World Cup they will have toshow in their bid that they are capable and ready. It dependson the determination of India to take up the challenge," hesaid.
The AFC chief, however, said India will have to addressthe issues of lack of football infrastructure if it has tohost big international events. (More) PTI PDS SHN