India set sights on 2026 World Cup after earning top FIFA seat


NEW DELHI: India set their sights on qualifying for the 2026 World Cup as Praful Patel became their first representative on the powerful FIFA Council on Saturday.

Patel, one of six Asian delegates elected to the Council at the Asian Football Confederation Congress, said the World Cup was the next big step for India after making great strides in recent years.

India’s confidence has grown after a positive Asian Cup in January, where they returned to the tournament after eight years and were unlucky not to reach the second round.

“I personally feel that among all the countries in Asia there is a tremendous goodwill for India, and (also) China should be much more involved in the game and also the AFC and FIFA,” Patel said in Kuala Lumpur.

“We should be putting our best efforts to make sure that the Indian team qualifies in 2026 for the World Cup,” he added.

However, India are also searching for a new coach after Englishman Stephen Constantine quit following their Asian Cup exit after a last-gasp defeat to Bahrain.


The 29th Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Congress has elected AFC Vice Presidents from each of the five Asian football zones in Kualalampur on Saturday.

Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat has been elected as Vice President for the South Zone and will serve for the next four-year term. It is the first time in AFC history, a Pakistani has been elected to the position.

Syed Faisal Saleh said in a statement that AFC’s vice presidency is a matter of pride for Pakistan. “I will use my experience for the promotion of football in Asia. And I will play every possible role for improvement of football in Pakistan.”

It is pertinent here to mention that AFC did not recognise the PFF led by Syed Ashfaq Hussain during the elections conducted on court orders.

The letter issued by the General Secretary made it clear that it accepts Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat as Federation’s President. A joint delegation of FIFA and AFC will be visiting Pakistan to probe the PFF situation.

Besides Hayat, Saoud A Aziz M A Al-Mohannadi (Qatar) has been re-elected by acclamation for another four-year term for the West Zone, whereas Mehdi Taj (Islamic Republic of Iran)has been elected for the Central Zone, Zaw Zaw (Myanmar) for ASEAN Zone and Ganbaatar Amgalanbaatar (Mongolia) was elected as the new AFC Vice President for the East Zone.