India is a sleeping giant: Blatter

Kolkata, Dec 30 | Updated: Dec 31 2006, 09:51am hrs
FIFA president Sepp Blatter will be visiting India in February with a team of officials to see what can be done to awaken the "sleeping giant", as he referred to the country in an interview with noted sports commentator Boria Majumdar.

Majumdar had asked Blatter about India's importance to the governing body of world football.

"Does India really matter to FIFA We languish at 140 in the world ranking yet the passion for the game is intense. How do you view India" Majumdar had asked, in an interview recorded earlier this month. In reply, Blatter, using a football term, said the question of India needed to be "tackled" in the next few months.

"Come February, a FIFA squad including me will visit India," Blatter told Majumdar.

Majumdar told FE that Blatter considers India a "sleeping giant that now needs to be awakened."

For Blatter, far more than performances on the ground, football can be used as a mode of life to help "alleviate several problems of Indian day to day life".

When asked whether Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, the Congress politician who is president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), can do justice to his role, Blatter was diplomatic. He said Dasmunshi is extremely passionate about Indian football and is very keen to develop the discipline in India.

"In fact, I would say that because he is politician and a member of parliament he should find it simpler to get things done," Blatter told Majumdar at the Zurich headquarters of FIFA.

Blatter rates soccer is a world passion and said it is great to know that people in India love the game.

"I know it is not the number one sport in the country. Cricket is on top of the list, but we are determined to help Indian football come up," Blatter told Majumdar.

"I have already had a rather fruitful meeting with the Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee in Germany during the World Cup and FIFA is rather keen work hands on with the Indian government. If football can do a great job in China, Japan and Korea, not to mention Brazil and Argentina, there is no reason why India should lag behind," he added.

While the United Nations has 192 members, FIFA has 202 affiliated football playing countries.