All India Football Federation president Praful Patel believes that the sport is headed in the right direction in the country. In an interview with The Indian Express, he said that the Indian Super League is playing a big part in bringing about this change.
“People criticise ISL but the league brought in big corporates who invested money, television coverage is better than before, clubs are bringing more people to the stadium,” said Patel. “It’s moving in the right direction. Ultimately, the quality of players will also improve.”
The AIFF president also mentioned that roughly Rs 1,000 crore is spent in the Indian football ecosystem in a year.
However, the 63-year-old slammed the notion that he ‘sold Indian football’ by accepting big investments by corporate companies and handing them power in return.
“To whom? Who is saying this? It’s a very myopic approach to a large problem,” said Patel. “When you look at the larger picture, has Indian football grown or shrunk? In the larger picture, is Indian football headed in the right direction or not?”
He added: “And what is this ‘sold Indian football’? Does anybody have a solution to undo what has been done in the past? Why should we sell Indian football?”
Patel also explained why he “can’t help it” if football isn’t growing as a sport in smaller cities in India.
“It’s a big problem. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are not able to come up in Indian football. I can’t help it. There are no local sponsors, the local federations have to take more interest. As a federation, you can’t do everything for every state and say that the whole country will function in the same breath,” he said.