Sports Minister Kiren Riiju addressed a 700-strong online audience of football coaches from across the country, which included Indian national football coach Igor Stimac and Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic, who had led his team to the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
"Introducing football at the school level and organising local football leagues is the way forward to build interest in the game among children across the country. Once we mass-base the game, then we can start scouting for talent and building up elite footballers," he said at the session organised jointly by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
Rijiju stressed on the need for a robust setup of football federations at the state and the district level to realise this dream. "As government, we can ensure that all resources will be made available and there will be enough financial support, but we need the football bodies at the state and district levels to actively organise more events to popularise the sport and draw out more talent. We also need corporates to come forward to sponsor leagues at all levels," he said.
Stressing on a need for a proper roadmap to take football ahead, the Sports Minister said, "After the COVID-19 issue is over, I would like to meet the heads of the state federations, top coaches and technical officials so that we can draw up a plan.
"Our Prime Minister launched the Khelo India Scheme which has caught the imagination of the country and is playing a big role in identifying and funding talent in all sports. We are going to fund many more football activities through Khelo India also."
Igor Stimac spoke about the support received from the government and said, "I would like to thank the minister for the constant support that football has been receiving from the Ministry and SAI."