New Delhi: Stepping up efforts to meet the dual objectives of hosting the 2017 U-17 World Cup as well as qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, India signed an agreement with FIFA under which the football body will provide strategical and technical assistance to the AIFF.
The agreement was signed in the presence of FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke and All India Football Federation president, Praful Patel.
"It's mostly about management, strategy and technical development for the future of (Indian football)," Valcke said.
According to Patel, this is to do with taking Indian football forward.
"We have a 10-year development programme called 'Lakshya'," Patel said, adding that it contains the roadmap for Indian football.
India has to submit the necessary bid files by September 26.
With various development projects being undertaken by FIFA in India, Valcke felt hosting the U-17 World Cup would be a perfect milestone.
"FIFA believes if there is one country in Asia that we need to focus, it is India. The U-17 World Cup would be a perfect milestone," the Frenchman said.
"The executive committee will meet on September 26 and 27 and then again in December. We have to receive all the files by September 26.
"We would ask the executive committee to let India host the U-17 WC in 2017. FIFA takes care of large part of finance except the infrastructure for such tournaments," he added.
Patel, too, expressed India's wish to host the event. "India wishes to host the U-17 World Cup in 2017 in India. AIFF made a comprehensive bid document and it's almost complete. It is complex as it involves so many states, ministries and departments.
"We will be making a formal presentation to FIFA. It has to be decided by FIFA's overall committee. India's strong bid and its commitment to various developmental projects in the country would make it a strong contender," he said.
Patel requested the world body for monetary assistance for laying more astro-turfs.
"It would be a pleasure to support India," Valcke replied.
"The best way to promote India is through hosting the U-17 World Cup, as the focus of all the countries will be there.
"What we will do is to work with the AIFF to make sure that you have strong structure so that you play in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, that's the real objective," Valcke further stated.
Stressing on the need to have strong grassroots programme, Valcke said, "You cannot build a national team playing in the World Cup without having strong U-17, U-19 and U-22 teams."
Patel lauded FIFA's commitment towards India. "It's an important visit. Football in India is poised for the big league after many years of hibernation. We have always been ably supported by FIFA and AFC. FIFA's commitment to development of football has been strongly visible in last few years.
"It has gone out of its way to see Indian football emerge as big footballing nation. Few months ago, president Sepp Blatter was in India. To have Valcke coming a few months later demonstrates FIFA's commitment to India.
"'Win in India with India' project has started to gather momentum but it's going to be a long time before India come up to the expectations of the fans. But we are certainly on the right track," he said.
Patel said the federation's focus at the moment is youth development.
"We are committed to developmental projects and youth development is the focus area. There cannot be a strong future unless we develop the grassroots.
"We had a discussion with Valcke and we all feel that the objective is to build the game at grassroots. Step by step we have been able to achieve some milestones, but there is still a long road for us."
Asked about India's plans to host the next Club World Cup, he said: "It has not been shelved, it is very much there. FIFA executive committee has to decide on the first tournament (U-17 World Cup)."
Valcke added that the bidding process for the 2015 and 2016 Club World Cup will open in early 2013.
He also ruled out any change in the format of the World Cup as far as number of team slots were concerned.
"The current format is not going to change in the near future. The number of countries in each confederation and the level of football are taken into consideration."