April 8 – Having made considerable progress on the field in recent months in terms of the world rankings, India have struck an important blow off it with the election of Praful Patel as their first ever representative on FIFA’s decision-making ruling Council at the weekend.
Patel was one of six Asian delegates elected to the FIFA Council at the Asian Football Confederation Congress and said qualifying for the 2026 World Cup was the next big step after a positive Asian Cup in January where the country returned to the tournament after eight years.
India may be searching for a new coach after Englishman Stephen Constantine quit following their Asian Cup exit following a last-gasp defeat to Bahrain but Patel, a former civil aviation minister, remains upbeat.
“We should be putting our best efforts to make sure that the Indian team qualifies in 2026 for the World Cup,” he said.
Patel, president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and senior vice-president of the AFC who chaired the region’s Congress because AFC president Sheikh Salman was attending his mother’s funeral, polled the highest joint number of votes.
He said that while he expected to be chosen, he didn’t expect such a landslide. “This is a feather in India’s cap,” he said.
“We organised the U-17 World Cup in 2017, now we have the U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2020. We will continue to use our position to have more FIFA competitions in India and use our clout to get more developmental funds.”
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