Indian football received a shot in the arm on Friday after Bharti Enterprises joined hands with the All India Football Federation and pumped in over a hundred crore rupees to help the country attain global standards in the sport.
Bharti signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the AIFF, which aims to create a comprehensive National Football Development Programme and working for globalisation of Indian football, in an attempt to make it to a World Cup finals.
As a first step, the telecom company will start a world-class football academy, to be named 'Bharti-AIFF Academy' with an investment of more than 100 crores, to be set-up either in Haryana or Goa.
Bharti chief Sunil Mittal said he wants a "football revolution" in the country and is ready to invest "any amount of money" necessary for providing a world-class academy.
"Bharti has signed an MOU with the AIFF with an aim to make this country a football nation and the next ten years must be a target for India to be at any of the World Cups. This project has the capacity to transform the nation and all the investment would be made by Bharti Foundation," Mittal said at a press conference in Delhi on Friday.
"We have become too obsessed with cricket and time has now come for us to develop football in the country. Nothing is more pulsating than the 90-minute entertainment on a football field," he said.
"I am starting with a few hundred crores, but I assure you I am ready to invest any amount of money for whatever it takes for the academy and a few other initiatives.
"The Academy will train young talents from eight to 18 years age group and I hope it will turn into a supply line for national team down the years," he said.
Mittal said it was a philanthropic initiative by the company and there was no commercial angle to it. He, however, said later that the investment will give Bharti commercial mileage when the game succeeds.
Calling the Bharti initiative as the beginning of an era, AIFF president Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi said Bharti's involvement in football would not be confined to building the academy alone though he said a kick-start is necessary to take care of the business viability aspect.
"AIFF and Bharti will work together for the development of Indian football. There is a small ray of light in our house," Dasmunsi said.
The academy will come up either in Goa or Haryana though the former state is tipped to get the country's first western club style football academy. Work on the academy will start by March 31.
"They (Bharti) want it to come up in Goa. They are talking to Haryana government also. A final decision will be taken soon," AIFF general secretary Alberto Colaco, who was also present, said.
Mittal said the academy, which will initially take around 100 youngsters in four age group categories of 8-11, 11-13, 13-15 and 15-18, will have all the western club style facilities including multiple grounds, basic training, coaching and medical facilities.
It will also have on-site educational facilities and hostels so that the selected youngsters can study regular subjects while developing their football skills.
The youngsters will be selected under a massive talent hunt programme throughout the country to find out budding talent via scientific means.