DOHA, Jan 12 (PTI): India coach Bob Houghton today said that FIFA chief Sepp Blatter�s suggestion that it should host the World Cup after 2026 could be a good idea as it would �force development of football infrastructure� in the country.
In an interview to PTI, Houghton reiterated his well-documented stance on the acute lack of football infrastructure in India but said if FIFA awards the World Cup, it would lead to �investment� in the game.
�I don�t know when India can be ready to host the World Cup. Infrastructure is the problem but I think you can argue that awarding the World Cup could be a good idea as it could force development of football infrastructure in the country. That may lead to investment in infrastructure. But beyond that I don�t know,� said Houghton ahead of India�s second Asian Cup match against Bahrain here on Friday.
Blatter had identified India as a potential candidate to host the World Cup ater Qatar was awarded the 2022 edition in FIFA�s bid to find a new market and extend football frontiers.
�If we have to identify new territories where football can be a better part of life then definitely it is the sub-continent, India, where they have 1.2 billion people,� Blatter had said.
Houghton said India can start with small size stadiums like the Ambedkar in New Delhi and think of hosting the Asian Cup in near future.
�India can start with small stadiums like Ambedkar and the 13,500-capacity Al Saad Stadium here where India played Australia. The national team can play international friendlies at these stadiums and if you have four-five of them you can host tournaments,� he said.
When reminded about the issue of his contract extension, the 63-year-old Englishman denied that he had hinted on quitting if India suffered drubbings at the hands of their opponents in the ongoing Asian Cup, and made it clear that he would continue after the continental showpiece.
�I had not said I would quit. I had only said that we were focussing on the Asian Cup and the other things will come later on. That was the totality of what I said,� said Houghton.
�I will take a break for two-three weeks in South Africa after the Asian Cup and plan the football programme for the year. There is an AFC Challenge Cup qualifying round tournament in March and then there are the 2014 World Cup qualifying round matches,� said Houghton whose contract with the AIFF runs till 2013.
The widely travelled Houghton said that the acute lack of infrastructure has been hampering in restructuring the I-League to conform with international calendar so that the country can play more international friendly matches.
�My suggestion for some time has been that we should have 38-week I-League season that is nine and half months. You need 23 weeks to play all the I-League matches and you can have eight weekend FIFA days when there would not be I-League matches and which can be used for the national team to play international friendlies.
�In the remaining six-seven weeks, AFC matches (AFC Cup matches for the clubs) could be held,� he said.
�The problem is the non-availability of stadiums. Alberto Colaco (former AIFF general secretary) used to say he can�t have a calendar like that as he even does not know the availability of stadiums. If a cricket one-day international match is going to be held in Margao, you will not get the ground for three months and all the I-League matches will have to be squeezed in the next month,� rued Houghton.
Since Independence, India have played less than 30 international friendlies and that is reflected in the country�s position � 142 � in FIFA rankings. And Houghton said nothing much can be changed until the I-League calendar is set right.
�You cannot get countries to play international friendlies in short notice. Say for example, you want to play 10 international matches starting July next year you will not get opponents. You need to plan out 24 months in advance.
�If a country says OK to play against us then we have to offer a FIFA day. There are 11 or 12 FIFA days when the clubs will have to release players for national duty. All the leagues in other countries stop on these FIFA days except for ours. You can�t ask other countries to play on non FIFA days when their leagues are on. So we need to set our calendar right,� said Houghton who has been national coach of China and Uzbekistan.
�The reason behind all these is there are very few stadiums. If you have five or six good football specific stadiums we can organise I-League according to international calendar. The broadcasters who are going to buy rights to telecast matches will not come as they won�t know when the matches are going to be held,� he said.