'Matter of time before India play World Cup on their own'
Kolkata: Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore on Sunday hoped that the stupendous success of FIFA Under-17 World Cup would motivate the country's budding footballers to improve their game and eye a World Cup qualification in near future.
"We have got the start. We should not stop here. I hope we get the U-20 World Cup, so that the start gets even bigger momentum. I believe if things go like this, it's not far when India will play in a World Cup on their own," Rathore said before leaving for the capital.
Rathore, who was invited for the U-17 World Cup prize distribution ceremony, said all big sporting organisations like FIFA now have India on their radar and the country should make the best use of it.
"It's a matter of pride that the U-17 World Cup came to India. It has taken India's importance at the world level to greater heights. Now the big competitions and sports which were earlier non-existent in India are feeling the need to come to this country.
"The fans response has been fantastic, we broke all records of the most attended World Cup ever," said Rathore.
The Olympics silver medallist said it was time that football became a pan-India thing.
"Football is popular only in a few regions like West Bengal, Goa and NorthEast. It's a nice opportunity to make the sport popular all over. We must make full use of this.
"We will take full responsibility from the Centre by bringing up more infrastructure and prepare elite athletes by looking after their funding and resources. You have seen the overall infrastructure and the modifications that have come in place have been very satisfying. We now need to be prepared for the upcoming competitions," he said. The former shooter had a special word of praise for the sports loving crowd of Kolkata.
"Kolkata has sports lovers. They understand the sport better. They waited for the ceremony to get over even after the match was over. They showed respect to both the teams. My heartfelt thanks to all the fans of Kolkata."