I have a dream – of popularizing football in India: Kalam

By Sri Krishna
New Delhi : It was a meeting that International Football Federation (FIFA) President Sepp Blatter would long remember. For 45 minutes, President A P J Kalam held forth on the sport quoting profusely from a book by French soccer star Michel Platini and his “own dream” of popularizing the sport in India’s 600,000 villages.

“I have a dream and the dream is to make football popular in the villages of India so that more and more young people play it. For this I want top football stars to visit the villages and meet the children,” Kalam told Blatter when the latter called on him last month during his India visit.

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Impressed by what Kalam said, Blatter said the federation plans to send three top footballers to India next year. They are Franz Beckenbaur, Beckham and Platini who would tour rural areas interacting with children, a senior official of All India Football Federation (AIFF) said.

Kalam, who is very fond of children, said Indian kids in rural areas would be “inspired” to take up this game when they are able to meet top footballers of the world.

“They will see them, meet them and thus get inspiration from them to take up the game,” he reportedly told Blatter.

The FIFA president commented: “He is a man of science and he knows so much about the game.”

Blatter also had a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and had apprised him of the plans of FIFA for development of football, the world’s most popular sport.

Blatter, who arrived in Kolkata on April 15 on his maiden visit to India, was given a red carpet welcome in the soccer-mad city.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF), headed by Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmusi, spent about Rs.5 million on the visit of Blatter and his entourage comprising around 100 officials.