REFILE-REFILE-Soccer-Sleeping giants India starting to wake up, says Blatter

Fri Mar 9, 2012 6:30pm GMT

(Fixes byline)

By Sankalp Phartiyal

NEW DELHI, March 9 (Reuters) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter reckons "sleeping giants" India are slowly waking up to their potential and that bids to host two world championships are positive developments.

The head of world soccer's governing body was on a visit to India, which has a population of 1.2 billion people but is 158 in FIFA's rankings.

"To wake up a sleeping giant you need more than one alarm clock. We have put different alarm clocks here. And I have to say the giant is not any longer sleeping, it's already starting to wake up," Blatter told reporters on Friday.

"My aim as the FIFA president is to establish football in the continent of India. I have been closely following the development of football in India.

"The FIFA development office is presently based in Delhi and the setting up of the regional and the elite academies are a step in the right direction."

The All India Football Federation announced on Friday that the country were planning to bid to host the World Club Cup in 2015 and the Under-17 World Cup in 2017.

"Both are positive developments no doubt. But it's up to the FIFA executive committee to decide," Blatter said.

Blatter, who was accompanied by Asian Football Confederation president Zhang Jilong, met India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil during his visit to Delhi.

Soccer in cricket-mad India is popular only in pockets but big European teams have turned their focus to India for branding, lured by the promise of one of the world's fastest growing economies and a huge youth population. (Writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Mark Meadows)

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