Buoyed after the country was awarded the 2017 Under-17 FIFA World Cup'S hosting rights, the All India Football Federation is set to bid for the 2015 and 2016 editions of the Club World Championships.
AIFF president Praful Patel told a press conference that India has already communicated to the world football governing body FIFA its expression of interest to host the Club World Championships in 2015 and 2016.
FIFA awards Club World Championships to a host country for two consecutive years and Morocco will host the event this and next year.
"We have officially put our request for 2015 and 2016 Club World Cup. We have made official communication to FIFA. I am going to meet FIFA officials in Switzerland next month to pursue India's case to host the prestigious tournament," Patel said at a press conference called to officially announce India's successful bid to host the Under-17 World Cup in 2017.
India was on Thursday awarded the right to host the Under-17 World Cup in 2017.
"We have been awarded the 2017 Under-17 World Cup and if we get to host the Club World Championships in 2015 and 2016, then I feel it will be a completely paradigm shift in Indian football," he said.
"Moreover, it will be good to hold a FIFA tournament of the scale of a Club World Championship before the Under-17 World Cup in 2017," he added.
In India gets the hosting rights of the Club World Championships, I-League champion team will also take part in the tournament.
"FIFA Executive Board will decide on the host country for the 2015 and 2016 Club World Championships in the middle of next year. We have to ensure that we have a good bid. I feel we have a good case."
Unlike the 24-nation Under-17 FIFA World Cup which will need at least six stadiums, the Club World Championships will require only a couple of venues as only eight matches will be played on knock-out basis among seven teams.
Since its inception in 2000, Japan has hosted the Club World Championship six times including the last edition. United Arab Emirates have hosted twice (2009 and 2010) after Brazil hosted the inaugural edition.
Under the current format, the host nation's champion team takes on the Oceania champions in a play-off. The winner joins the champions of Asia, Africa and North America at the quarter-finals. The quarter-final winners go on to face the European and South American champions, who enter at the semi-final stage.
Talking about the Under-17 FIFA World Cup in 2017, Patel said getting the prestigious tournament was a tough task.
"It has not been an easy task to get the hosting rights. Right from getting assurances and guarantees from the Central and state governments, it has been a tough job. These assurances and guarantees were absolute and uncompromisable," he said.
"The real challenge starts now and we have to develop the infrastructure to world standards to host the Under-17 World Cup successfully. I would say that getting the hosting rights was easier but hosting it successfully would be tougher," he added.
Asked about the possible window for the Under-17 World Cup, Patel said, "FIFA has not told us about that. No doubt we will also give suggestions but FIFA will decide when to hold the tournament in 2017.
"But it will have to be not in summer months and take into account the monsoon rains also. So probably it may be after October," he added.
He said all the six stadiums which will host the matches will have to be of FIFA standards and all of them will require natural grass turf.
"FIFA is very strict about playing conditions and our stadiums will have to be of FIFA standards. Moreover, all the stadiums will need to have natural grass turfs," he said.
"The eight stadiums we have shortlisted, out of which six will be selected, are not final. Those stadiums which do not fulfil FIFA criteria and do not have natural grass turf will be dropped," he added.
Out of the eight stadiums shortlisted by the AIFF, three -- Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, KSFA Stadium in Bangalore and Cooperage in Mumbai have artificial turfs and Patel indicated that these venues will have to switch to natural grass turf of they have to host the matches.
The other five -- Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here and Margao, Balewadi Stadium in Pune, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi and Guwahati -- have natural grass turf but all of them will require sprucing up come up to FIFA standards to host the matches.
Surprisingly, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai, which fulfils maximum number of FIFA criteria, was not included in shortlist.
Patel also said India will have to put up a reasonable performance event and a blueprint will be chalked out to select the players.
"We are yet to chalk out the details. But we will form a committed team to pick players so that India put up a respectable performance. Only then the world will begin to notice us as a footballing nation," he said.
"We will scout the talent from every source possible. We have our own academies and if required we may convert one academy to exclusively train the players for the Under-17 World Cup. We will send the selected players to various countries to play friendly matches before the actual tournament," he added.
Image: Praful Patel and Sepp Blatter
Photograph: B Mathur/Reuters