NEW DELHI (AFP) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Monday urged cricket-mad India to embrace football, saying the sport had a great future in the land of one billion people.
"We are here not to fight against an established sport," Blatter told reporters on his first official visit to India, during which he will also meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
"I admire the game called cricket and I don't to want to change the most established sport in your country now," he said.
"But I always campaign for football because in this game there is no difference between caste, culture and creed or rich and poor. It is the fascination of this game that attracts people all over the world."
Blatter said FIFA had special plans to improve football in India, who are currently ranked 165th in the world and 34th in Asia.
But he urged the country's football administrators to work harder to match world standards.
"The Indian dream of reaching top international levels can be realised through the work done by All India Football Federation (AIFF) with support from the government and corporate houses," he said.
"But it is only if you help yourself that heaven will help you. As Confucius said: 'If your brother asks for a fish, don’t give him the same, instead teach him how to catch it.'"
Blatter said that football's future lay in Asia since Europe was "saturated for foreign players and coaches."
"Good coaches will come to India if a good technical and administrative infrastructure is in place."
Asian Football Confederation chief Mohammed bin Hammam of Qatar, who is accompanying Blatter on the three-day trip, was critical of the AIFF headed by federal minister Priyaranjan Das Munshi.
"With the existing structure, don’t think of progress even in the next 100 years," Hammam said.
India was the first Asian nation to make the Olympic semi-finals at Melbourne in 1956 and won the Asian Games gold medal twice in 1951 and 1962.
It may have been just the tonic football needed to catch the imagination of the country's youth. Official apathy, however, denied the sport its due even as cricket made giant strides.
Baichung Bhutia, the only Indian to play professional football in England -- he spent three years with third-division Bury -- blamed lack of planning for the current mess.
"We have no infrastructures at all at the grassroots level," he said recently. "There is no system in this country to encourage young boys to play football. There is no professionalism."
|Unsworth questions players´ commitment after Atalanta embarrassment|
|PSG prepare for Monaco with order restored and European dominance in mind|
|Who, what, when and where? – All you need to know about the 2018 World Cup draw|
|Wenger calms Welbeck injury fears after planned substitution|
|Kaka unsure over playing future amid Milan directorship offer|
|Monaco v Paris Saint-Germain: The Opta facts as Mbappe returns with Neymar in tow|
|Griezmann happy at Atletico, says Koke|
|Ronaldo will deliver when needed for Madrid – Alonso|
|Rodrigo commits to Valencia until 2022|
|Domestic bliss? Montella targets Serie A resurgence after Europa League success|
|Rooney stands by Unsworth after Everton humiliation|
|He deserved more chances – Hazard hails ´top player´ Salah|
|We have to stay awake all the time - Coutinho frustrated after Sevilla collapse|
|Everton 1 Atalanta 5: Cristante and Cornelius knock more shine off Premier League strugglers|
|AC Milan 5 Austria Wien 1: Andre Silva sends Montella´s men through to the last 32|
|Wasteful Arsenal leave Wenger frustrated|
|McInnes to remain at Aberdeen despite links to Rangers, West Brom|
|Robinho given prison sentence in Italy for 2013 sexual assault|
|Cologne 1 Arsenal 0: Gunners secure top spot despite defeat|
|Silva not giving ´one more word´ on Everton speculation|
|Everton sign Bramley Moore Dock lease|
|UEFA investigating Bayern after fans throw fake money in protest over Champions League prices|
|Robben out of Gladbach clash with ´minor´ calf strain|
|Pochettino pleased to see Rose emotion|
|Mourinho factor makes Man Utd a title threat, says Lampard|
|Chelsea´s best chance of success is Champions League, claims Lampard|
|Robben: It could be over for me after this season|
|Newcastle Jets 4 Melbourne Victory 1: Nabbout at the double|
|Happy Sanchez could win the Premier League for Arsenal, Lauren claims|
|Angered Neymar storms away from Real Madrid questions|
|Bayern played their worst ´for a long time´ - Boateng|
|Neymar form no surprise for Alves|
|Federer congratulates Basel after Man Utd scalp|
|Gremio 1 Lanus 0: Cicero gives Brazilians advantage in Libertadores final|
|Hazard: I admire Madrid, but I´m happy at Chelsea|
|Neuer or De Gea? Digne says Ter Stegen is world´s best keeper|
|Allegri satisfied with draw against ´extraordinary´ Barcelona|
|Nainggolan reaffirms Roma commitment after Simeone praise|
|Simeone hails Griezmann´s ´extraordinary´ volley|
|Emery hails Neymar after stunning Celtic win|
|Championship Review: Wolves thrash 10-man Leeds, Middlesbrough cruise|
|Goncharenko delighted for clean sheet star Akinfeev|
|I hope Barcelona rest Messi – Jesus|
|Thiago suffered a serious injury, says Heynckes|
|Valverde explains decision to bench Messi|
|Iniesta hails ´splendid´ Ter Stegen as Barcelona seal last-16 spot|
|Griezmann shrugs off goalless streak after wonderstrike keeps Atletico´s hopes alive|
|We should have been 5-0 up – Mourinho unimpressed with wasteful United|
|Toure reveals Guardiola anger with City´s Feyenoord display|
|Paris Saint-Germain set Champions League scoring record in Celtic rout|
|Sporting CP 3 Olympiacos 1: Dost on target as hosts stay in contention|
|Bielsa suspended by struggling Lille|
|Anderlecht 1 Bayern Munich 2: Lewandowski and Tolisso give visitors win|
|Atletico Madrid 2 Roma 0: Griezmann returns to form with wondergoal|
|Basel 1 Manchester United 0: Late Lang goal leaves Mourinho´s men with work to do|
|Paris Saint-Germain 7 Celtic 1: Cavani and Neymar score braces in sparkling win|
|Juventus 0 Barcelona 0: Messi benched but Valverde´s men in last 16|
|Conte pleased to take pressure off Atletico clash|
|Success in Europe will help Milan´s league form, Montella claims|
|Bauza sacked by Saudi Arabia|
|Willian: For me, it was a penalty|
|Akinfeev keeps first Champions League clean sheet since November 2006|
|Messi rested by Barcelona side for Juventus clash|
|CSKA Moscow 2 Benfica 0: Goncharenko´s men boost progression hopes|
|Qarabag 0 Chelsea 4: Hazard, Willian lead Blues into last 16|
|If he´s fit, he will go – Wenger backs Welbeck for World Cup call|
|Niasse banned over diving charge after FA rejects Everton appeal|
|Real Madrid´s Carvajal faces UEFA investigation over APOEL booking|
|Everton fined €30,000 over fan trouble against Lyon|
|No change in Everton manager hunt, says Unsworth|
|Chiellini to miss Barcelona match with thigh injury|
|Former Everton and Nigeria striker Yakubu retires|
|Liverpool looking into claims of Seville police assault against fans|
|Toure hails Foden as the ´future´ of Manchester City|
|Record Ronaldo nomination as Real Madrid dominate UEFA Team of the Year candidates|
|Heynckes stay is ´best solution´ for Bayern, says Robben|
|Courtois parks Chelsea contract talks|
|Wigan´s two-goal Colclough makes mad dash to witness birth of son...in full kit!|
|Sevilla boss Berizzo diagnosed with prostate cancer|
|Manchester United move still a possibility for Atletico star Griezmann|
|Carragher slams Liverpool for playing ´like children´ in Sevilla collapse|
|Replacing you might not be a great idea! – Buffon grateful for Rakitic tribute|
|Messi closes on century but Pogba must do more – Champions League in Opta numbers|
|Skoko wants Australian coach as Arnold emerges as Postecoglou replacement|
|Everton yet to make contact with Van Gaal|
|MLS Review: Sounders a step closer to final, Crew and Toronto in stalemate|
|Ben Yedder trolls Liverpool after dramatic Sevilla comeback|
|´World class´ Insigne can´t be rested – Sarri|
|I say one thing and you write something else - Angry Ronaldo brushes off media|
|Griezmann needs support of Atletico and fans – Simeone|
|Monaco paid for mistakes in Champions League exit - Jardim|
|We had to rely on personal pride - Berizzo praises Sevilla´s stunning comeback|
|Championship Review: Coleman loses first Sunderland game, Fulham win nine-goal thriller|
|City fans get first sight of local star they crave in Phil Foden|
|Gunes wants more after historic Besiktas Champions League qualification|
|Allegri plays down Dybala-Messi comparisons|
|Extra rest helped Rose shine in Dortmund – Pochettino|