New Delhi: A top AIFF official on Friday said that the Indian football players, who lost to Singapore in an away international friendly on Tuesday, lacked fitness as they were playing in the midst of the I-League which required constant travelling.

Second round I-League matches were played till October 11 and the national team left for Singapore two days later for the October 16 match.

I-League Chief Executive Officer, Sunando Dhar admitted that it was not ideal for the players to play in an international match just a few days after featuring in the league.

"The players in Singapore match were lacking in fitness. Travelling in I-League matches had affected them. It's ideal to have 7-10 days gap for preparation before an international match. But they may have to be used to this things," he said during a panel discussion on 'Mission Rank 100: Myth or Reality?' organised by FICCI here.

Dhar said that the scheduling of the I-League has been a tough job in view of the fact that the national team will also have to give slot for international matches.

"For the last 2-3 seasons, preparing the I-League fixture has been a tough job because we have to ensure that the national team gets international matches on FIFA dates to garner ranking points.

"In such a big country, the players lose a lot of time while travelling. For example, if a club has to play in Gangtok or Shillong, the players will have to take a bus for four-five hours after landing at an airport," he said.

Meanwhile, addressing another panel discussion on 'Successful Initiatives and Way Forward in Soccer', AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said that it would be a game changer for India if it hosts Under-17 World Cup in 2017.

"Under-17 World Cup will certainly be the game changer for India. We have to play well there. We are not thinking of winning but we have to be competitive," Das said.

"Some of the academies we are establishing are targeted to train players for the U-17 World Cup so that we can do well. If India can compete with the best in the world, it will give a huge fillip to the game in the country. It will boost the youth development and the profile of the game as a whole," he added.

Asked about India's bid for hosting U-17 World Cup, Das said, "We have got the necessary documents and guarantees from the government which is required under FIFA guidelines which are very strict."

"(FIFA General Secretary) Jerome Valcke's comments (when he visited India recently) that FIFA was keen to give U-17 World Cup to India was very encouraging. We will submit the formal bid later this month or early next month. The FIFA Executive Committee will decide on the host in December in Japan (during the World Club Championships)," he informed.

Das said India will have eight football academies under the aegis of the AIFF by next year and two elite academies by 2014.

"Under the AIFF, the grassroot level is 8-12 years age group and we will be having all the eight regional academies by next year to cater to 14-16 age group players. Then we will have two elite academies for 16-18 age group by 2014," Das said when asked about the youth development aspect of the 'Master Plan -- Lakshya 2022' authored by national football team technical director Rob Baan.

(Agencies)

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