By Jagannath Chatterjee
New Delhi, Aug 30 (SocialNews.XYZ) Veteran sports administrator and the current Football Delhi (FD) president Shaji Prabhakaran is absolutely confident the new dispensation that will take over the affairs of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) after the general body elections will bring in the "desired changes" and help the game grow in the country.
Prabhakaran is happy that both the candidates in the fray for the post of AIFF president -- former footballers Kalyan Chaubey and Bhaichung Bhutia -- have been players of repute and will keep the well-being of the footballing community uppermost on their minds.
He wants the new setup to focus its energies on grassroots football and restructure the competitive setup of the game in the country, so that not just the country but the global community recognises that "India is changing".
Q: After more than a decade, a new team will assume charge of AIFF, how do you see it? Will it bring the desired changes?
A: Yes, absolutely. There is no doubt. The new team that will come, will be of like-minded people and I am sure there will be a lot of changes. Fans and stakeholders have been expecting this change and it is very important. The expectations will be high and I am sure the new team will be able to deliver.
Q: Whosoever becomes president, he will be a former footballer. Is it good for the sport?
A: You see, the good thing is that both the contenders are former footballers, and that way there will be a good change in terms of leadership. But, at the end of the day, it will depend upon the whole team. I am sure Kalyan (Chaubey) is the favourite. There is no doubt about that. I am sure he is working to build a team in a way where the change that everyone is expecting, can be carried forward.
With both (Kalyan and Bhaichung) being footballers, their commitment, their understanding of the game will be there, which will bring a sea change in terms of what we haven't seen in the last few decades. It is overall a great situation for Indian football.
Q: What should be the priorities of the newly-elected committee?
A: The priorities in football at the moment have to be to develop the game and take all the stakeholders together and bring about the necessary changes, which are required and take the right steps in consultation with the stakeholders. In other words, the priorities should be to develop football, women's football, grassroots football and structuring the whole competitive structure and giving that kind of message to not only the fans in India but globally that India is changing for the better.
The new committee has to ensure the women's U-17 World Cup, which is going to take place in October 2022, is successful and there is a strong legacy left behind. Yes, there is little time and the team has to quickly get into action. There should be more action and less talking, that's what I believe.
Q: Bhaichung Bhutia is saying Kalyan Chaubey is being misled. What do you feel?
A: I don't know. On what basis Bhaichung made that statement? What I know is that Kalyan is a strong favourite for the president's post.
Q: Though you are not contesting but being the face of change, what will be your role?
A: See, my only interest is to see change and support the growth and development of Indian football, that role I will continue to play... whatever I can for the betterment of Indian football. My expectation is, as a new team it should take the best possible guidance and support from whosoever possible. I will always be there for any kind of support or role. That way, we can move forward and create a very positive and warm environment whereby Indian football gets the right headlines in terms of moving forward.