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SAFF’s Bold Move: India’s Risky Push for Two Teams | Kalyan Chaubey | Goa News

“AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey Celebrates India’s SAFF Championship Victory, Talks Future Goals and Challenges”

Panaji: Kalyan Chaubey, the President of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), proudly celebrated India’s triumph in the SAFF Championship, marking the team’s unbeaten streak throughout 2023. In an exclusive interview, Chaubey discussed the achievements and shared his vision for the future of Indian football. Here are the highlights:

India has achieved significant success, winning three trophies in just four months and maintaining an unbeaten record in 2023. What are your aspirations for Indian football moving forward?

Improving our FIFA ranking is crucial. This will provide us with opportunities to play against stronger teams. However, progress cannot happen overnight. We aim for the national team to engage in as many matches as possible.

Prior to the Asian Cup, the team is set to play around 20-22 matches, and we intend to continue this momentum. Additionally, we aim to foster relations with foreign federations beyond SAFF. Our ambition is to explore opportunities in CAFA, the Middle East, and the Gulf region. Increased exposure through more matches against quality opponents is essential for improvement. Systematic training is important, but competitive matches are equally vital. The national team should gather every few months to play multiple games. This is how we can grow.

Given India’s turnaround in performance, particularly after draws against Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, did you expect this transformation?

I believe in taking risks and putting in hard work, and results will follow. If India had lost the SAFF Championship, people would have criticized the new president for the team’s inability to win even at the SAFF level. So, instead of avoiding invitational teams and winning SAFF at home, we took the risk. Winning another SAFF trophy wouldn’t have made much difference unless we played higher-ranked teams. It was a calculated risk, but one worth taking as it benefited our Asian Cup preparations.

This year’s SAFF Championship included Lebanon and Kuwait, thanks to India’s agreement as hosts. Will this trend continue in future editions?

We decided to introduce more competitiveness by involving teams from outside the region. Kuwait and Lebanon elevated the competition, bringing a fresh dynamic. I appreciate the support of the SAFF president and our marketing partner in making this happen. If given the option, I would definitely continue extending invitations. Winning or losing the SAFF Championship is not our primary target; we aim to go beyond that.

National coach Igor Stimac has called for a four-week preparatory camp before the Asian Cup. How will you balance the schedule?

We must adhere to FIFA’s guidelines for player releases ahead of international matches and tournaments. Considering the schedule, running the ISL, I-League, and Federation Cup simultaneously, alongside India’s participation in the King’s Cup and Merdeka Cup, a four-week camp may not be feasible. However, we will do our best within the existing system to deliver what is possible.

The AIFF has granted direct entry into the I-League to five new corporate teams. Will this dilute the competition or are there enough domestic players to meet the demand?

Let’s focus on the positive side. Over the past 20-25 years, several corporates have withdrawn from football. However, for the first time, we are witnessing five new corporates eager to establish teams within a single calendar year. They must have done their homework and have confidence in the current AIFF setup. This positive development indicates that these teams will field competitive sides with the available talent in India.

You have previously mentioned the need for VAR technology or Var Lite due to refereeing complaints. Is there any progress on that front?

Implementing VAR technology requires careful planning, resources, and technical execution. We have a plan and technical capacity, but we need the resources. Internal discussions are ongoing with our marketing partner to overcome the challenges posed by the existing agreement. We are optimistic about introducing VAR, and I received some technical support during my trip to Belgium, as well as the potential for assistance from Saudi Arabia.

The 15-year agreement with FSDL will end in less than two years. Will the AIFF renew the contract?

FSDL has made substantial efforts and investments in football. There is no reason why we should not continue or renew the partnership. However, the capacity and conditions under which we will continue need further discussion.

Gopal Krishna Kosaraju, the President of the Andhra Pradesh Football Association, has raised concerns about salaries, appointments, tender processes, and your frequent travel. How do you respond to these issues?

I have addressed these concerns in core committee and executive committee meetings, as well as the AGM. If the members of the house feel that the president should not travel, I will comply. In the past nine months, I have traveled to 17 states, visiting places where neither the AIFF president nor any office-bearer had set foot before. These travels have allowed me to explore possibilities for expanding football. They have been beneficial for AIFF. During this time, I have met the FIFA president six times, and he sent a personal message for our national championship. We have also brought Arsene Wenger on board, and his team has visited India to discuss development plans.

The AFC president is recommending coach educators. When was the last time India received such support? Sports is all about relationships, and as the head of AIFF, it is my moral responsibility to meet other national heads and explore what is best for our country. The support provided by state governments in Odisha and Manipur is evidence of the positive impact. Chief ministers themselves attended matches and offered incentives. The house agreed that travel is necessary. These complaints are raised by one individual only.




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