AFC ASIAN CUP: Aware of progress of Indian football: Dato Windsor John

New Delhi, January 14, 2019: Asian Football Confederation (AFC) General Secretary Dato Windsor John is not surprised by India’s performance in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

In an exclusive interview, he spoke at length about the AFC being aware of the remarkable progress of football in India over the last decade.

EXCERPTS: The hallmark of India’s performance in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup…

DWJ: India has performed well. The win against Thailand — a first in 55 years in the competition — is testament of the development of football in India. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) deserves credit for its dedication.

Despite the loss against UAE, they (India) showed character and resilience.

Of course it is not easy to compete against a tournament heavyweight on home soil and India were a little unfortunate. I believe they can take great pride with their performance.

Has India been the surprise package of the tournament?
DWJ: India’s performance may have come as a surprise for some but we (AFC) were well aware of the remarkable progress of football in the country since the last decade. The AFC’s vision and mission underlines commitment to provide assistance to member associations. As the second largest football community on the planet, we knew about India’s football potential.

Over the years, we have worked closely with the AIFF to raise the standard of the game through various ‘President Initiatives’ and development programmes. There are signs that the sport is scaling new heights in India.

These include the results of the U-16 team at the AFC U-16 Championship in Malaysia in 2018 (they qualified for the quarter-finals for the first time since 2002). Also, Bengaluru FC, who reached the 2016 AFC Cup final and the Inter Zone final and semifinal in 2017 and 2018 respectively, is a good indicator of the progress of football in India.

When we decided to expand the competition from 16 to 24 teams, the idea was to provide member associations more opportunities against top-class competition. It is good that the decision has made an impact on emerging nations which include the Philippines, Kyrgyz Republic and of course, India.

Citing the example of the India U-16 team what has caused the sudden shift for football in India?
DWJ: Competitions drive development and India’s continued presence in AFC tournaments has been the catalyst for the development of football.

The AFC decided to award the AFC U-16 Championship to India (in 2016) to strengthen their capability of hosting the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup and also give them international match experience and exposure — factors vital for the development of football.

The competition also showcased the passion that exists for football in the country as fans rallied behind the senior India team till the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. We hope that India’s commendable display will accelerate this progress.

Does Sunil Chettri’s recent record (he overtook Lionel Messi as the second highest goalscorer among active players in international football) mean anything for Asian football?
Sunil’s record clearly exemplifies his desire and professionalism both on and off the pitch. He has been a proud ambassador for club and country. With two goals in this tournament, he has proven his worth on Asia’s grandest stage.

I am confident that he (Chettri) will serve as an inspiration to aspiring footballers in India and Asia. With hard-work, dedication and a commitment to excellence, Sunil proves that nothing is impossible.


Also Read: Tricky but still very possible! A look at India’s Knockout round chances

Also Read: We need to win against Bahrain: Constantine

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