By Devika Sharma
In a nation dominated by cricket and Bollywood, it’s not unusual that people often forget about football. It can be distressing and highly exasperating for football fans in India to constantly remind people of their country`s football team, given the minuscule amount of TV space it occupies at international football tournaments. For those of you who are unaware, India has a national football team, controlled by the All India Football Federation. It is a member of the Asian Football Confederation, and a member of FIFA. In 1948, the AIFF was affiliated to FIFA. But the fact is India, ranked 133rd in the world, has never come close to qualifying for the World Cup.
Only once in 1950 India had a chance to play FIFA world cup but the players were not allowed to participate in the poor man’s game because Indians played soccer barefoot.
Football is called ‘the poor man’s game’. All it requires is a ball and a piece of land. India, a land of more than 1 billion people and a huge geographical area still finds it difficult to compose a strong team. It’s a shock and more of a surprise. Fans feel apathy and anger seeing this state of Indian football.
Let’s play ball
But population and expanse of land are not only the requirements to make a team. The game needs support from the people and the government. It needs will and dedication to be something.
Where’s the football practice?
If the sport needs to grow in terms of popularity, finance and become self dependant, then infrastructure needs to be taken care of.
The government has a crucial role to play in this. There are a 2.5 million government schools in India. Owing to that, the government must provide these with good play grounds and coaches, they should have a good pay scheme for these coaches to encourage them to take initiatives for training young talent. Basic facilities like a square grounds, logistics, promotional events and talent hunt programs must be organized on a national level.
More football tournaments should be organized at the international level which will give the game it’s needed exposure. It’s time for the sports federations to take their hands out of the cookie jar and actually work for what they have been appointed for. Also the big investors, instead of promoting just cricket must come forward to provide financial help for football and sponsorships for the players. Administration should improve, maybe appointing a world class technical director by the AIFF will help. At last, nothing can raise the profile of the game than the game itself, the more entertaining is the game the more popularity it will gain.
What’s your favorite ISL team?
The biggest force that drives football in the nation is the interest of the young men and women who equally follow football and would love to see our country win laurels in the game.
The Indian Super League, an initiative by IMG and Reliance, two big business firms, wherein big business honchos, sports men and even actors have come forth to buy teams and promote football is a very encouraging step for Indian Football enthusiasts.
The 2014 season, with 8 teams, each of them having a roster of 22 players including 10 foreign players, 8 domestic Indian players, and 4 local Indian players is a step forward to integrate players and followers from around the world with their love for the game being the binder.
The enthusiasm of the youngsters towards not just clubs but the game of football shows that there is still light at the end of the tunnel. India is capable of being the best. If this enthusiasm and initiatives continue to grow, the day won’t be far when the most common notion of people all around the world will be ‘INDIA WILL WIN THE WORLD CUP!’