Indian cricket bankrolls national football team

NEW DELHI: India's cricket chiefs on Thursday agreed to donate five million dollars over the next two years to improve the nation's under-performing football team.

The affluent Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) accepted a request from the country's cash-starved football body for funds needed to prepare the national team for the 2011 Asian Cup finals in Qatar.

"The BCCI will give 250 million rupees (five million dollars) to the All-India Football Federation for the development of football in the country in the next two years," the cricket board said in a statement.

The AIFF will use part of the money to fund its "Goal 2011" project where top 25 players will be taken away from club duties for nine months to build the national team for the Asian Cup.

Under the project, the AIFF will pay players the fees they earn from their respective clubs for the time they remain in the national camp.

India's football team has made little impact on the international scene, and has never qualified for the World Cup.

The BCCI, the richest sports body in the country, which earned around 222 million dollars in fiscal year 2007-2008, has already set aside 11 million dollars for the promotion of other sports in India.