New Delhi : Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore says India has the potential to play in the FIFA World Cup in near future but the country can reach that standard only if opportunities are created for the players.

Rathore cited the beautiful game’s rising popularity even as India skipper Sunil Chhetri recently pleaded the fans to throng the stadiums to watch the national team play in the Intercontinental Cup in Mumbai.

“Football’s popularity is rising in India. The number of people who turned up to watch FIFA U-17 World Cup was same as IPL matches.

“India hasn’t played in FIFA World Cup but we have potential. If 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.

The minister was speaking at an inter-embassy football tournament, organised by the Russian Embassy. Rathore said the training opportunities and support for the players are much better now.