Jerome Valcke and Praful Patel
FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke and AIFF president Parful Patel during a press conference in New DelhiAIFF

India's ambition to host the Under-17 World Cup in 2017 received a huge boost after FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke put his weight behind the bid.

Valcke is on a visit to India, and during a press conference in New Delhi, he said developing football in the country was extremely important, adding, hosting the under-17 World Cup would be a big step towards that goal.

"India has to be one of the centre-point of Asia to develop football," Valcke said. "There is no football without a grassroots programme. The U-17 World Cup is the perfect milestone to succeed it."

Valcke further went on to say the current Indian national team was a better squad than the FIFA ranking of 169 suggests. "FIFA rankings are very complicated," he said. "To climb the ladder in the rankings you need to play on FIFA dates and with competitive sides. Otherwise your good show won't reflect."

Senior Indian players have been crying out for more competitive matches against bigger teams that have so far fallen on deaf ears. Football is undoubtedly popular all around India, not just in pockets as is sometimes believed, with the English Premier League being one of the most watched sports in the country; the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea along with Spanish clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona enjoy a big following, particularly in the urban areas.

However, Valcke believes generating interest in domestic football is necessary to truly develop the game to all parts of the country. "Our main objective is to develop domestic football and bring it to the International level," he said. "People would take interest in watching Indian Domestic League and not only the English Premier League and the La Liga and so on.

"We want to improve the infrastructure as well. India is a large market and I cannot believe 1.2 billion people only play just cricket!

"This is the reason we want the U-17 World Cup in 2017 to take place in India. We aim to host World Cups in countries where football development is needed. India stays out primary area of focus. We have our developmental office in India.

"That proves how serious we are about the 10-year project with India from 2012 to 2022. In between we have the 2017 World Cup bid and India's aim to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar."

All India Football Federation president Praful Patel firmly believes India will become a footballing force within the next ten years. "We have to start early if we want to grow as a footballing nation and develop the grassroots," Patel said. "We need to work on the pyramid and that stays the main objective of the Federation.

"Unless we have players being nurtured from the age of 12-13 we won't grow. We have a 10-year master plan called Lakshya and our aim is to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

"Our request to FIFA would be to provide us with a dozen more artificial turfs. FIFA has provided us with eight of them previously during the 'Win in India in India' project. Financial help is also solicited."