Shri Praful M Patel
Nationality : Indian
Date of Birth: 17th Feb 1957
Educational Qualification : B.com
In its quest to climb the mountain, Indian Football has found just the right leader in Mr. Praful Patel to guide it through the tunnel. Since taking over as the President of Indian Football’s Governing Body the virtuoso of Mr. Patel has enabled Indian Football to scale new heights.
Realising the dream to host the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup – an unprecedented achievement in the Country – Mr. Patel has shown one and all as to how to take the next step forward.
Under his tutelage, Indian Football Federation has seen Academies blossom, Grassroots Development usher and Youth Development take giant strides.
With the U-17 Youth showpiece now a reality, Mr. Patel’s wish of bagging the rights to host the FIFA Club World Cup goes to show the forward thinking nature of the AIFF President.
An able political leader himself and a former member of the Cabinet, Mr. Patel’s industry in shepherding Indian Football beyond the horizon has been nothing short of extraordinary.
FIFA U-17 WORLD CUP 2017
Leapfrogging World Cuppers Ireland, South Africa (also hosts of the last FIFA World Cup 2010) and higher ranked Uzbekistan, India under the leadership of Mr. Praful Patel won the rights to hosts its first FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017. A feat made of dreams turning into quicksilver reality.
“This is historic,” was how the President who has played the catalyst in getting the FIFA nod, described the moment on December 5 last year (2013). It will be a ‘game changer,’ he stressed, and indeed it will.
Obtaining the necessary guarantees from the Union Government of India would not have been ever possible without Mr. Patel’s involvement.
The Tournament, in which 24 Teams will take part, will be held at six venues which are to be selected from eight prospective Centres — New Delhi, Goa, Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Kolkata, Kochi and Guwahati.
FIFA Team led by Mr. Inaki Alvarez in World Governing body’s first inspection after awarding India the right to host the World Cup had said that: “So far it has been very encouraging and there has been a lot of support. Having the support of the local Government and the Union Government of India is the key, because AIFF cannot do it by itself. This is the World Cup so we need the support of various groups.”
The magnanimity of the mega event that is certain to take Indian Football to new heights could be gauged from the reactions across all borders, unprecedented in its wake.
The Indian U-17 boys will get a chance to compete against the best in the World who will be graduating to be the Megastars of World Football in the future.
At a time when the Country is concentrating on Grassroots and Youth Development – the only mantra towards development of the game and making itself large on the World map, hosting an event of such stature is a boon second to none.
Not only will the future National Team Players get a chance to rub shoulders with the best youth talent in the World, but the infrastructure of the sport in the Country will shoot up immensely.
That India has never tasted a World Cup before will actually enable the masses who generally live on cricket get acquainted with the game and take note of Football in the Country. As for the Football crazy section, this will be a lifetime opportunity to see the best in their own lair.
BIDDING FOR WORLD CLUB CUP:
Wanting to take it further head where India can have back to back FIFA Tournaments, India, under Mr. Patel’s leadership is bidding to host two successive editions of the World Club Cup in 2017 and 2018.
Mr. Patel intends to sustain the momentum which would be gained through the 2017 U-17 FIFA World Cup by giving opportunity to the two I-League Champions Clubs get a wild-card entry in the two editions of the Club World Cup.
LAUNCH OF THE MASTERPLAN:
‘The road ahead’ now stays drafted. ‘Lakshya,’ the Masterplan drafted by Mr. Robert Baan, Technical Director, AIFF is the roadmap for Indian Football to go to the next level. It very much focuses on the yardsticks which are to be in place as it takes Indian Football forward to the cherished dream of qualifying for the World Cup that too in Qatar 2022.
ACADEMIES AND YOUTH DEVELOPMENT:
Like a true leader leading from the front, Mr. Patel showed the way as to how it should be done by ushering five Regional Academies, fully funded and taken care of by All India Football Federation. Generally a responsibility of the Clubs and State Associations, Mr. Patel took the lead galvanizing youth Football in the Country.
An Elite and U-14 Academy in Goa, one in Navi Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bangalore shelter the future stars of Indian Football, an unprecedented feat by any National Federation.
Now with the World Cup on the horizon, AIFF has two residential academies in Goa (with Navi Mumbai shifting base) – one U-14 dedicated for the World Cup and the others in Kolkata and Bangalore.
In fact, Ms. Edith Schippers, Minister of Health, Wealth and Sport of The Netherlands was part of the first AIFF Academy launch in Worli on May 11, 2012.
Mr. Patel took it further by concentrating on Grassroots. So much so that India finished second to Japan in the AFC Grassroots MA of the Year 2013 with Vietnam coming in third. Mind you, it the achievement came in just less than a Year of the Grassroots Programme being officially launched.
Entwined with Academies and Youth Development is Grassroots – the buzzword for growth in the sport worldwide.
So far as many as Seven States have been involved in Grassroots Football with Instructors for the same increasing by the day. AIFF has taken giant strides in Grassroots Football in the last one year.
Furthermore, the tie up with Football Federation of Australia (FFA) -- an agreement under Australian Sports Outreach Program (ASOP) with the Australian Federation to support All India Football Federation’s Grassroots Programme, came under Mr. Patel’s leadership.
AGE GROUP TEAMS:
India’s performance in U-16 and U-19 AFC Championships have been very encouraging. The U-16 squad successfully qualified for the final phase of the U-16 AFC Finals in Tehran in 2012 where they stayed a match away from qualifying to the quarterfinals which was a match away from an automatic entry to the U-17 FIFA World Cup.
Successive batches of the U-19 National Team have graduated into the mainstream with all of them having being roped by I-League Clubs and many going on ahead to represent the Indian National Team in the U-23 category and then in the Senior National Team.
All India Football Federation’s project ‘Arrows’ has turned out to be highly successful as so far eight boys have gone on to don the India Senior National Team colours.
Not without reason was FIFA Consultant for Women’s Football Ms. Monika Staab incessantly enthusiastic about Women’s Football in India. Upon her visit to the Country in December 2012, she had maintained: “I did not realise India had such a vast potential in Women’s Football. This is so refreshing and I am very impressed.”
Under Mr. Patel’s leadership India reached their best-ever ranking of 49. The age-group Teams have been performing well and the India U-14 girls Team winning the AFC U-14 Girls Championship is testimony to the fact.
Inviting corporate entities to join the I-League bandwagon was Mr. Patel’s brainchild. Bengaluru FC came on board and won the League in their maiden season – the rest as they say is history.
Understanding, and in an initiative to fulfill FIFA’s moto of commercialization of the game, Mr. Patel felt it best to invite new Teams into the League to increase its marketability.
The I-League Champions, devoid of big-names (barring the National Team Captain) showed to all as to how a professional Club should be run, both on and more, off the field. The fanbase, plethora of new initiatives, doing all the right things….BFC have been a revelation and Mr. Patel needs to be credited for that.
Mr. Patel’s vision in upgrading the Indian Referees is also yielding results. India’s Woman Referee Maria Rebello created history when she officiated in an I-League match between Pune FC and Shillong Lajong FC, thus becoming the first Woman Referee in the World to officiate in a Premier League of any Country. It happened on the Woman’s day and it stays scripted in Golden Letters.
The ratio of Referees in the FIFA panel has also gone up -- from four Referees and six Assistant Referees in the FIFA Panel, the ratio has now gone up to six and eight respectively.
In October 2012, FIFA Referees Pratap Singh, CR Srikrishna and MB Santosh Kumar also signed a professional contract, the first time any Referee has been brought under a contract system.
All of the above is being complemented by FIFA Development Courses, FUTURO Courses to be precise. The FIFA FUTURO-III Referee Instructors Course for South Asia and Central Region was held in September 2013. FIFA had granted India another FIFA FUTURO-III Special Course in the Capital in March 2012. The Course was specifically allotted to India as a special case.
FIFA FUTURO-III Referee Instructors’ Course is aimed at developing the Instructional skills of Instructors actively involved in teaching in their Member Associations. Such Courses use a Regional format and Instructors from neighbouring countries are trained at a Centralised venue.
Even the Women Referees’ Courses bore fruit almost immediately when an all female Referees contingent took charge of the Women’s Nationals in Assam this year. Maria was the Referee in the final between Manipur and Orissa.