New Delhi: The Under-17 FIFA World Cup is one month away but Indian football legend Bhaichung Bhutia feels that the upcoming tournament has already made its impact with several academies and age group clubs cropping up in the country.
Former India football captain Bhutia, who retired in 2011 after playing more than 100 matches for the country, agreed with the view of the football officials and the experts that the October 6-28 event, the first ever FIFA tournament in the country, will be a "game changer".
"This prestigious tournament will only help the country in its bid to raise the profile of football. If the players produce good results in the tournament, it will be a motivation for the country and the players to do even better (in future)," said Bhutia, who donned India colours from 1995 to 2011.
Bhutia, who was considered the poster boy of Indian football for more than a decade, said because of the U-17 World Cup, football infrastructure in the country has improved and several academies have come up in the past couple of years.
"In terms of organisation, I see that the U-17 World Cup will be a successful one. I feel it is already a success," said Bhutia, the former chairman of the technical committee of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
"There has been a huge improvement in infrastructure at the grassroot level. More than 100 football academies have registered with the AIFF. More than 50 clubs have registered for the U-19 League (of the AIFF). It is all because of this U-17 World Cup," said the celebrated goal-poacher, who was known as 'Sikkimese Sniper' in his heydays.
India has been clubbed with United States of America, Ghana and Colombia in a tough Group A with the Capital City hosting the home team matches.
Asked about India's chances in the tournament, Bhutia said, "As far as the performance of the boys is concerned, it will be tough for them (to wriggle out of the group stage). But it is not impossible. They will have to play their best and you never know (what will happen) in football."
Bhutia was part of the committee which appointed the current U-17 team head coach Luis Norton de Matos, in place of Nicolai Adam who was sacked after the players complained to the AIFF about his abusive behaviour.
The U-17 World Cup will be played in six cities across India -- New Delhi, Navi Mumbai, Kolkata, Kochi, Guwahati and Margao -- from October 6-28.