India football great P.K. Banerjee on Friday urged the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to increase the pool of young players after the U-17 World Cup besides holding on to the current crop of Under-17 footballers who are getting ready to take part in the FIFA World Cup, starting October 6.
“This bunch needs to be together after the World Cup. They need to play as a team and then can represent India at the U-19 level and maybe at the U-20 World Cup,” Banerjee, 80, told reporters on the sidelines of the winner’s trophy launch at the Khudiram Anushilan Kendra here.
“The pool needs to be increased. More U-17, U-19 players need to be taken into the fold so that our future as a footballing nation is secured,” he added.
The AIFF has decided to field a developmental side in the I-League this year with the U-17 World Cup team players. The move, approved by AIFF’s technical committee, is on the lines of the Arrows project which was dissolved four years ago and will see the best talent from the India Under-17 and Under-19 teams form the core of the new side.
Former India women’s team captain Shanti Mullick, the first Arjuna awardee in women’s football, termed this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“It’s a different feeling being around the FIFA World Cup trophy,” Mullick said.
“The AIFF must ensure bring in young boys and girls to watch the matches. Kids must watch.”
Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium will host 10 matches including the final on October 28. There will be one round of 16, one quarter-final and a third-place match besides five Group F and one Group E tie.