All India Football Federation President Praful Patel on Wednesday acknowledged that the country’s bid to host the 2027 AFC Asian Cup will face tough challenge from other competitors but termed it a “natural consequence” of its rising status in the continent.
Unveiling the Bid Book to host the continental showpiece in 2027 along with Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, Patel said the AIFF is hopeful of winning the hosting right of the tournament which will be competed among 24 teams.
“Competition will be tough but unless you try you will not get anything. Just like any other bidding country, we are also confident of winning the right to host the event. There will be diplomatic support also. It is the country’s bid and AIFF is only a representative,” Patel said.
“India has arrived in the world scene in football. We have hosted men’s FIFA U-17 World Cup and is going to host the women’s U-17 World Cup in 2022. Then, we are hosting the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
“The bidding of both the FIFA U-20 World Cup for both men and women is also on the cards. So, it is a natural consequence of having all these top level tournaments that we will bid for the AFC Asian Cup in 2027.”
Asian football heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran as well as 2022 FIFA World Cup host Qatar are also bidding for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup. Saudi Arabia and Qatar submitted their Bid Books to the AFC on Monday.
India is expected to submit the Bid Book on Thursday or Friday — the deadline for submission. Uzbekistan has pulled out of the race.
In April this year, the AIFF had submitted its official expression of interest to host the tournament. The host country will be decided in June next year.
Rijiju, on his part, said the government will extend all possible support to the AIFF to win the bid.
“Indian football need to get back (to earlier glory) and we need to host big events. This is one of the most prestigious football tournaments and from the government side, we will extend all the support,” said the minister.
“It will be a defining moment (if India win the bid). I am confident by 2027 the men’s and women’s team ranking will go up and we will be apt to host the tournament. So, the whole nation is supporting the bid,” he said.
Asked how confident was the AIFF to win the bid, Patel said, “We are in 2020 (now) and if we are looking at 2027 and if we can’t get Indian football up by 2027, I think we are wasting our time.
“So, why should India be less formidable in football than Saudi Arabia or Qatar (by 2027).”
Patel said the flurry of Asian and global tournaments that the country is hosting or bidding is geared up towards the dream of the Indian men’s team qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, to be jointly hosted in USA, Canada and Mexico.
“We are working for a larger goal, that of India qualifying for the 2026 World Cup. I think this is something which can be a reality,” said Patel, while adding that hosting the men’s FIFA World Cup “is a little distant for us”.
“We have six years (till 2026) to prepare and there will be 48 teams competing, eight teams from Asia, instead of five (in 2022 World Cup in Qatar).”
This is not the first time that Patel had talked about India’s aim of qualifying for 2026 World Cup. He had said the same last year when he was elected as a FIFA Council member.
Former India men’s team defender Gouramangi Singh and national women’s team captain Ashalata Devi were also present on the occasion.