Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia has praised the Indian U-17 players saying that they are "on the same page" as their Brazilian counterparts. The legendary forward also felt that the U-17 World Cup is a great opportunity for India to develop football at grassroots level.
"We saw the Indian U-17 World Cup team play against Brazil and some of the Indian players were on the same page as the Brazilian players, if not better than them," Bhaichung Bhutia told PTI on Wednesday.
Bhutia, who is also the chairman of All India Football Federations's (AIFF) technical committee, stressed that the U-17 World Cup that is set to be played in India in October 2017 was the best chance to boost the sport in India.
"If you don't play matches you don't develop into a better player it is as simple as that. The U-17 World Cup squad is the first step that we have to focus on apart from working on grassroots football. We also have to see that exposure is provided equally to all youth age Indian teams," the 39-year old said.
AIFF president Praful Patel sided with Bhutia's opinions saying that Indian U-17 World Cup squad was a "quantum change” in developing Indian football.
"Our Indian team plays under the best coaches and they are getting a chance to progress and develop in a competitive environment," he said in an AIFF statement.
"The U-17 World Cup squad is brushing shoulder against some of the best teams in youth football. This is a quantum change in the development of Indian football," Patel added.
The 24-team FIFA event is set to be held across 6 venues in India, with New Delhi, Chennai, Pune, Mumbai, Margao, Bangalore, Kolkata, Kochi, Guwahati, and Navi Mumbai short-listed to host the event.