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Indian football is a gold mine that needs to be explored, says Wenger

Arsene Wenger believes there is a "gold mine" of football talent in India that needs to be tapped so that the country can play a more significant role on the world stage.

"My target is to improve football in the world. And it is impossible that a country like India, 1.4 billion, is not on the football world map," former Arsenal manager Wenger said during a visit to India in his role as FIFA's chief of Global Football Development.

"My main target here is to convince people that there is a gold mine here, but at the moment it is not completely explored, exploited and encouraged," he added during a meeting with the president of the All India Football Federation on Monday.

The Frenchman said a robust development program can improve a country's performance.

"I was in Japan at the start of their football in 1995. In 1998, they were at the World Cup," he said.

"So that means it is possible. You have to start early.

"I believe you have huge assets, fantastic qualities that make me very optimistic about what you can do here."

India have never taken part in a World Cup. They opted not to participate in the 1950 tournament despite being invited.