The Union Minister spoke to over 700 football coaches from across the country.

Earlier on Friday, India’s Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Kiren Rijiju said that the best way to develop football in India is to do so at the grassroots level itself, by introducing the game at the school level and by organising local football leagues.

Rijiju was addressing an online audience of as many as 700 football coaches from across the country – which included Indian national football team coach Igor Stimac and the Croatian national football team coach Zlatko Dalic – when he made the above statement. The session was organised jointly by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

“Introducing football at the school level and organising local football leagues is the way forward to build interest in the game among children across the country,” he said, as mentioned earlier. “Once we mass-base the game, then we can start scouting for talent and building up elite footballers,” he added further.

The 48-year-old minister also stressed that a robust setup of football federations needs to be developed at the state and the district levels, while also calling for corporate bodies to come forward to help the government realise this dream.

“As the government, we can ensure that all resources will be made available and there will be enough financial support, but we need the football bodies at the state and district levels to actively organise more events to popularise the sport and draw out more talent. We also need corporates to come forward to sponsor leagues at all levels,” he said.

But for now, all further decision-making in this regard seems to have been postponed until the nation recovers from the ravages caused by the global Coronavirus outbreak.

“After the COVID-19 issue is over, I would like to meet the heads of the state federations, top coaches and technical officials so that we can draw up a plan,” Kiren Rijiju announced, before adding: “Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Khelo India Scheme which has caught the imagination of the country and is playing a big role in identifying and funding talent in all sports. We are going to fund many more football activities through Khelo India also.”

The Indian national team coach Igor Stimac also spoke during the session, as he acknowledged the support they have received from the government so far.

“I would like to thank the minister for the constant support that football has been receiving from the Ministry and SAI,” the 1998 FIFA World Cup bronze-winning Croatian said, in the presence of the current Croatia boss Dalic, who led the team to the finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

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