New Delhi:They have done the country proud by winning the AFC Challenge Cup and now Sports Minister M S Gill wants the Indian football team to play and win in Olympic Games too.
India thrashed defending champions Tajikistan 4-1 in the summit clash to qualify for the prestigious Asian Cup after almost a quarter-century, in Beijing on Wednesday.
Gill congratulated the Indian football heroes but rued he could not witness one of the most memorable wins in the recent times for Indian football.
"I want to congratulate the entire team, captain Baichung Bhutia and coach Bob Hougton for their achievement. They are climbing up the ladder to where they should be. India played in the Olympics of 1956 and I want them to be there again and win the gold," Gill said.
"The football boys have done wonder to the country. I wanted to go to watch the match yesterday, but couldn't as I was busy in many other works like Monika and all.
"As I have returned from Beijing yesterday only, I got less time. But in future, I will definitely be present to watch the match," he added. The Sports Minister said he would meet the players of the Indian team tomorrow "personally".
Gill insisted that football was no less than cricket as far as stature is concerned. "Because football is the mass sports, it is of the same stature as cricket is in our country." He also lauded Badminton player Saina Nehwal for her performance in the women's singles Badminton quarterfinals in which she went down fighting, on Wednesday.
"It was a very commendable performance by an 18-year-old girl making her debut in the games. I would like to meet her and congratulate her when she comes back to India from Beijing and I have told my officials regarding this," he said.
Gill hoped that Saina would be able to win a medal in the next Games. "I want to encourage her personally. Next time I am sure she will win a medal for India," he said.