Developing football at the grassroots is the best way to grow the sport in India, Rijiju said while addressing a 700-strong online audience, including national team coach Igor Stimac and Zlatko Dalic, who guided Croatia to the 2018 World Cup finals.
The minister spoke about his vision to build a football culture in India.
“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,” Rijiju said.
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“Once we mass-base the game, then we can start scouting for talent and building up elite footballers,” he added at the session organised jointly by the Sports Authority of India and the All India Football Federation.
He stressed on the need for a robust setup of football bodies at the state and the district level to realise this dream.
“As a 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 added.
Stressing on the need for a proper roadmap to take football ahead, Rijiju said, “After the Covid19 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 Honourable 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.’
Stimac thanked the ministry and SAI for the support football received in recent times.