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Radical Roadmap -- AIFF's 'Vision 2047' aims to transform Indian football from ground up

THE AIFF HAVE UNVEILVED an ambitious, expansive proposal to develop football in India with their 'Vision 2047' roadmap initiative.

The roadmap was announced today in a press conference at the All India Football Federation headquarters in New Delhi, attended by AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey and Secretary General Shaji Prabhakaran.

With several major reforms in men's and women's club football as well as grassroots and youth initives, the roadmap lays out a plan that aims to make the Indian men's & women's teams top 4 in Asia by 2047.

While this is not the first time the AIFF has come up with a roadmap (e.g. the 'Vision 2022' initiative of former AIFF president Praful Patel) but this is the most detailed statement of intent that the Federation has issued till date.

The roadmap targets 2026 as an early landmark year to implement some of the changes that will act as starting points. For example, by that year the top two leagues of India (ISL & I-League) are slated to have 14 teams each. The third tier league is to have 12 teams; making for a block of 40 clubs at the national league structure. The league pyramid itself will go down to 5 tiers and have promotion-relegation; which Dr Prabhakaran confirmed by saying that even teams from city leagues will have a chance to get promoted to the top division. This portion of the roadmap appears to fully comply with the AFC-FIFA roadmap that was adopted back in 2019.

For women's club football, a major change will also kick in during the same period. The Indian Women's League will have a proper home-away season structure. The new format will launch with 8 clubs next season but soon it will have 10 clubs.

According to the roadmap, by 2026 the Indian men's team will be among the top 10 in Aisa (Top 7 by 2036), while the women's team will be among the top 8 in the continent. And India will aim to qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, for both men & women, by merit.

Another major aspect of the roadmap that will be implemented in the near term is initiating development programmes in conjuction with FIFA initiatives. The AIFF top brass confirmed that former Arsenal FC manager Arsene Wenger will play a role in the talent development and scouting structure, and the exact role he will play will be revealed in February.

At a grassroots level, AIFF will aim to reach 2.5 crore children through school projects and 3.5 crore children through dedicated grassroots programmes. According to Dr Prabhakaran, the clubs will be empowered to play a major role in this part of the roadmap and their participation will be mandated through the club licensing system.

The revenue model of club football is also expected to undergo a major revamp as AIFF wants to generate 500 crores from its major competitions, up several times from the current levels of revenue. The AIFF officials did not clarify whether the telecast rights for the Indian Super League will be brought to an open market bid to achieve this.

The roadmap also includes several projects for coach and referee education.

If implemented correctly, the AIFF bosses believe that this project will turn India into one of the biggest commercial and talent hubs in world football by 2047.

According to the targets listed in the project, by 2047 India will have 30 FIFA standard stadiums and a top division league with 20 clubs. In women's football, there will be at least 20 major standalone club who work exclusively in women's football alongside other clubs who have both men's and women's teams. Each player will play 55 competitive matches per season. And the total number of football clubs across the country at every level will grow from 4,500 today to 20,000.

This is undoubtedly the single biggest project in the history of Indian football. And if AIFF even accomplish half of these targets, it will radically transform Indian football for the better.

It remains to be seen how the Federation will handle the implementation of this mammoth undertaking.

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