India told "not to let the momentum go"

Describing the Vision Asia program as the last chance for India to break into the league of major soccer nations, Asian Football Confederation Secretary General, Peter Velappon, warned the AIFF not to let the momentum go. He is part of the four-member AFC delegation monitoring the implementation of the Vision India pilot projects in Delhi and Manipur. Other delegates include AFC Director of National Associations Brendan Menton, P Shiva Kumar and Imtiaz-ur Rehman.

After meeting regional officials Mr Velappon said, "We have asked [national] officials not to tinker with the state leagues and plan their big events accordingly. The state soccer activities should go for at least 6-7 months. Manipur has assured us of good administration and we recommended appointment of full-time staff to manage things in a more professional way. We want to do away with volunteer jobs. Manipur has 269 clubs and they showed the commitment. They also have good infrastructure unlike Delhi where we have to start from the scratch."

Emphasising the need for the clubs to have sound financial health Mr Velappon said, "Clubs should have good management and adequate fund to fuel development programs and other things. If quality players are there and matches are televised on weekends, companies would line up extending sponsorship and football is a golden product for them -- as evident from the FIFA World Cup or even the Asia Cup."

Also present on the occasion, All India Football Federation Secretary Alberto Colaco said, "We are getting a lot of inputs from the AFC and striving for setting up the right administration." Delhi Soccer Association Secretary N K Bhatia later told UNI that acting on the recommendation of the delegation, the association would convene a general meeting and amend its constitution to facilitate the changes.

"We already have roped in former international Arunesh Sharma as the Vision Co-ordinator which is a step towards professionalism. AFC also suggested us to change our name to Delhi Football Association. They have set goals ahead of us and we would do everything to achieve those targets,'' Mr Bhatia added.

"I think this is the last chance for (reviving) Indian football. This is a golden opportunity and if India fails to grab that, God bless India," Mr Velappon concluded.