Asian Cup should spur India to move ahead

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Doha: Asian Football Confederation President Mohammed bin Hammam today said India`s participation in the Asian Cup after a gap of 27 years could see the country taking the first step towards the glory days of the past when they were continental leaders.

India are taking part in the Asian Cup for the first time after 1984 and Bin Hammam forsees the country becoming a strong side in future tournaments.

"I am happy for India to play in Asian Cup after so many years, after long disappearance. I welcome them. The national association, the players and fans in India must be feeling excited that their team is playing in the Asian Cup. I do believe it is the start of the wake up call for India by all means and from here on they should move ahead," Bin Hammam told PTI in an interview.

"India started football in Asia with the first official match being played there in 1854. In the recent past there has been strong development of football in Asia except for India.

Football in India has changed from 27 years ago but many countries of the region had gone ahead of India and they have the chance to move forward now.

"In 1988, Japan played in the Asian Cup for the first time when it was held here in Qatar and they could not win a match and failed to get past the group stage. But in the next tournament in 1992, they were the champions. I have a feeling that the same can happen in the case of India. The federation and people of India want change in their football fortunes," said the Qatari, who was recently elected to his third four-year term as AFC chief.

"It is a myth," said Hammam, when queried about India lagging behind mainly due to acute lack of infrastructure in the country.

Asked about his views on FIFA chief Sepp Blatter`s reported comments that India could be a potential candidate to host the World Cup in 2026 or after, Bin Hammam said, "Every country has a right and ambition to host big events like the World Cup. It is not in our hands. It is entirely in India`s hands and not an external wish."

"If India wants to host the World Cup they will have to show in their bid that they are capable and ready. It depends on the determination of India to take up the challenge," he said.

The AFC chief, however, said India will have to address the issues of lack of football infrastructure if it has to host big international events.

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