15:49 GMT17 May 2021
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    The rising popularity of football in India can be gauged by the fact that tickets for a recent match of the 2018 Intercontinental Cup in Mumbai, which was the Indian skipper Sunil Chetri’s 100th match, sold out at lightning speed, with the stadium being packed to the brim, according to India’s sports minister.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) — The Indian national football team has great potential to compete at the FIFA World Cup, India's Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore feels.

    Rathore was speaking to media during a friendly football match organized at the Russian Embassy in New Delhi for the diplomatic community to coincide with the 2018 FIFA World Cup being hosted by Russia. The Russian Embassy team won the tournament, which saw the participation of the embassies of China, France, Germany, Iran and Denmark.

    READ MORE: Internet Festival 'India Congratulates Russia' Launched in New Delhi

    Ambassador of Russia to India Nikolay Kudashev was present at the occasion. 

    "There is growing interest for sports in India and football craze is also rising. The number of people who turned up to watch FIFA U-17 World Cup was same as the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket matches. India hasn't played in the FIFA World Cup but we have the potential. If the potential is linked to opportunities, India will start playing in FIFA World Cup very soon. Be it football, or any other sports, India has tremendous potential," Rathore said addressing the football enthusiasts assembled at the Russian Embassy on the occasion.

    Rathore, in his speech, claimed that under the "Khelo India" initiative, the government of India has been striving to provide better training and opportunities of players of all the games including football and that the government will not only organize Under-17 Games but also Under —21 events at the national level. 

    READ MORE: India-Russia Relation Encompasses Spiritual, Cultural Ties: Russian Ambassador

    Nikolay Kudashev, the Russian envoy to India, stressed that sports plays an important part in uniting the world.

    "It's an initiative by the Russian Embassy in India, supported by the diplomatic core and the Indian government. Sports are the best language to speak and understand one another. It's an important way to bring the world together," Nikolay Kudashev was quoted by the media as saying.


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    FIFA, potential, sports, diplomacy, football, FIFA World Cup 2018, India, Russia
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