Kolkata, Oct 29 (IANS) The success of FIFA Under-17 World Cup will motivate India’s upcoming footballers to improve their game, Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said on Sunday, adding he hoped they will be able to qualify for the World Cup in near future.
The Olympics silver medallist, present at the Saturday’s U-17 World Cup prize distribution ceremony here, said big sporting organisations like FIFA now have started giving importance to India and the country should make the best use of it.
“We have got the start. We should not stop here. I hope we get the U-20 World Cup, so that the start gets even bigger momentum. I believe if things go on like this, it is not far when India will play in a World Cup on their own,” Rathore said.
He said it was a matter of pride that the U-17 World Cup was hosted in India.
“It has taken India’s importance at the world level to greater heights. Now the big competitions and sports which were earlier non-existent in India are feeling the need to come to this country,” he said.
Rathore said the fans’ response was fantastic and broke all the records of the most attended World Cup ever.
Rathore described the success of the World Cup as an opportunity to popularise soccer across India as the game is popular only in a few regions like West Bengal, Goa and North East.
“We will take full responsibility from the Centre by bringing up more infrastructure and prepare elite athletes by looking after their funding and resources. You have seen the overall infrastructure and the modifications that have come in place have been very satisfying. We now need to be prepared for the upcoming competitions,” he said.
Conveying his “heartfelt thanks” to all fans here, the former shooter said, “Kolkata has sports lovers. They understand the sport better. They waited for the ceremony to get over even after the match was over. They showed respect to both the teams.”