Kolkata: Former captain Bhaichung Bhutia on Thursday said the Indian football team's quantum leap in the latest Fifa rankings could help in changing perception in a country deprived of major success for long.
He added the task now will be to build on it, hours after the team achieved its best-ever ranking (101) in over two decades.
"The ranking plays a big role in people's mindset in India. Here the perception of ranking is very very high. Everyone only talks about ranking, hopefully they will now take pride in this achievement," Bhutia said.
During Stephen Constantine's ongoing second stint, Sunil Chhetri and Co have had 11 wins from 13 matches, which include an unofficial match against Bhutan, while scoring a total of 31 goals.
Bhutia heaped praise on the Englishman who was brought back in 2015 when the former captain was the AIFF technical committee chairman, as India jumped from 171 to 101.
Constantine was India coach from 2002 till 2005, during which the national team won the LG Cup in Vietnam and finished runner-up in the Afro-Asian Games. He later guided Rwanda to the 68th place in world rankings.
As per the coach's road map, qualifying for the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup 2019 in the UAE is the next target.
The Blue Tigers face Lebanon in a friendly at home on 7 June before hosting Kyrgyzstan in their next Asian Cup qualifier.
India recently defeated Myanmar in the Asian Cup qualifier, their first victory in the neighbouring nation in over 64 years. Macau are the other side in India's group.
Two teams qualify from six groups to join the already qualified 12 teams in Asia's highest continental meet where India last made the cut in 2011.
"Personally, it's really satisfying as when I joined the technical committee it was 167-171 and now it's 101. It's really a proud moment for all of us. We have to continue building on this. To maintain the ranking is more difficult."
Terming it a team work, he said: "A big congratulations to Constantine and his team. At the same time the Federation played a big role in organising friendlies and playing the right kind of matches to ensure that the team is benefited. Every plan was put in place. It's a complete team work."
94 has been India's highest ever ranking achieved in February 1996, followed by 99 in November 1993 and 100 in October 1993, December 1993 and April 1996.
Published Date: Apr 06, 2017 23:11 PM | Updated Date: Apr 06, 2017 23:11 PM