Kolkata, Sep 17 (PTI) Former captain Chuni Goswami today said India must make good use of the opportunity to host the Under-17 football World Cup and look to qualify for the knockout stage.Also Read - From 30-Minutes Halves to Temporary Yellow Card Suspension: Five New Potential Rules Set to Revolutionize The Game of Football
Being the hosts, India have automatically qualified for the October 6-28 tournament, a first FIFA event in the country. Also Read - Mumbai Rains: Death Toll Rises to 31 in Landslide, House-collapse Incidents; NDRF Ends Search & Rescue Ops
“We have nothing to lose from here on. Yes, India maybe nowhere in world football at the moment but we can set our target now,” the 79-year-old told PTI in an interview here. Also Read - Sunil Chhetri Behind Cristiano Ronaldo in Active International Goal Scorer List
“In two to three years time, about 80 to 90 per cent of these players will go on to graduate to the next level. Many will become future stars in world football. We have the opportunity to see the future Messis and Neymars. All the teams will send their best talents at this level.
“India must make it count and do well. Quarterfinal may look unrealistic but it would be a great achievement if they make it to the knock-outs (last-16),” he said about the prospect of India, who are clubbed with USA, Colombia and Ghana in Group A.
The Mohun Bagan star is highly impressed with the Saltlake Stadium that will go on to host the final of the event on October 28.
“Look at the Saltalke Stadium … the U-17 World Cup has done wonders to the infrastructure. It’s the best in the country now and befitting that it’s hosting the grand final,” he said.
But Goswami is not keen on going to the stadium to watch the matches.
“I will rather watch on TV. I’m too old to go the stadium and watch a match,” he said.
India have already shown interest to host the U-20 World Cup in 2019 but Goswami feels it is important to strengthen the base and not overlook the I-League which is struggling in presence of the lucrative Indian Super League.
“If we strengthen the grassroots level the future would be secured. Indian Super League has done a great job in popularising the football,” he said.
“But it mostly has the ageing stars. I feel I-League is very important and there should be every move to make it more competitive,” he concluded.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.