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Kolkata, Oct 21 (IANS) Indian football legend P.K. Banerjee on Saturday lashed out at the FIFA Local Organising Committee (LOC) for not felicitating many top former players like Shyam Thapa, Prasun Banerjee and Subhas Bhowmick during the FIFA Under-17 World Cup opener in New Delhi earlier this month.

“It’s a huge loss of faith for Indian football community. In cricket, we all know about the star players. But footballers are always ignored. How will football’s popularity grow if such is the attitude,” Banerjee said at a news conference at his residence here.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had felicitated the greats of Indian football, including Banerjee, I.M. Vijayan, Bhaichuing Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri, Bhaskar Ganguly and Oinam Bembem Devi.

Banerjee urged the LOC to felicitate the likes his brother Prasun Banerjee, Shyam Thapa, Arun Ghosh, Subhas Bhowmick, Mohammad Habib and Sudhir Karmakar during the final on October 28.

“I am not talking about Prasun as my brother but because of his contribution to Indian football. I want Subhash Bhowmick, Shyam Thapa, Mohammad Habib as well as sports people from all disciplines to be honoured in the final,” Banerjee said.

Banerjee further stated that it’s shameful that the LOC is distributing tickets with a lottery system for the final.

“It’s shameful that the stars of yesteryears are given tickets by a lottery system. Of course, the common people deserve to watch the final but one must never forget the past and the contribution of these former footballers,” he said.

The LOC, in a statement, said: “It has been brought to our notice certain displeasure from a section of former players with regard to their recognition within the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017.

“For the small ceremony on October 6 in New Delhi, there was a clear criteria for players to be felicitated, which was that they had to have captained Indian teams in a Senior or U-23 Continental Championship or Olympic Games. All players who met the criteria were invited to New Delhi. 

“This was the only approach to avoid any subjectivity on the selection. It’s important to note that this is the first time in the history of the FIFA U-17 World Cup that an LOC has taken the initiative to felicitate former players of the host country as a part of a ceremony at the stadium. 

“This was done as an extremely special case and the whole football fraternity in India should be very proud of this step, as Indian legends were shown to the world and the past of the game was honoured.”

On the issue of complimentary tickets for former stars, the LOC put the ball in the court the Indian Football Association (IFA), stating it is their prerogative as to how the passes would be disbursed.

“About complimentary tickets for former players, an allocation has been reserved at all the venues for former legends of the game and are being handed out to the State Associations. It is the duty of the State Association to identify the former players and to hand them out tickets for the matches,” the LOC said.

“In the case of Kolkata, 85 tickets per matchday are being given to IFA so that they can establish a system of distribution for this. It is solely the decision of the State Association how they are distributed and who gets them.”

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