Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Football in India

Posted: January 11, 2014 in Football

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For a country playing football from the time Queen Victoria became the Empress of India, and with close to a billion people following the game, 154th rank is a reason we cannot fathom. With a popularity second only to Cricket, India has always been referred to as the sleeping giant waiting to be awakened, but when?

Looking back at the history of the sport in India, the oldest competition for football outside the British Isle is The Durand Cup. Established in the year 1888, having a British contingent play the first match, while Mohan Bagan A.C. created history when they lifted the cup in 1911, becoming the first Indian Side to win the trophy. Just after Independence the 1948 Olympic team played barefoot against a formidable France, it attracted the admiration of none other than Princess Margaret, the younger sibling of Queen Elizabeth II, while the captain that led the team in the 1952 Olympics, Sailen Manna, was the only Asian in the top 10 captains list in 1953.
Although history does have a colorful picture to paint, Football fell into the similar pit like as Hockey, or more
accurately it was actually Hockey that followed suit. Whether the sport fell into bad administration, or because of the lack of interest in people, or the meteoric rise of Cricket and eating into all the other sports, we cannot say, except for the fact that Football is still lags behind.

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Throughout its history, Football does have a few bright spots, and occasionally bringing up the spirits, only to fall deeply short of expectations. The time when India played the AFC Asian Cup and losing all three of them, or being crowned SAFF champions a number of times only to find out that it is nowhere close to a comparison for competition in the world stage. Its not that winning the SAFF cup has no value, but India is more stagnant and winning it seems to be the only achievement that India had in a long, long time. While in more recent times, India lost the finals to Afghanistan in the 2013 edition.
All said, India is a country never short of talent and all it needs is the right pedigree to groom players for the world stage. With the recent burst of interest in the I-League not only being a pleasant surprise, but a great encouraging factor for players who, would otherwise, have to convince people about taking up football as a profession rather than a sport or for passion. This again directly proportional to the fact that the I-League has more city based clubs now, unlike the earlier years, which had more of institutional clubs.
By far the best thing to have ever happened to Indian Football is the opportunity to host the 2017 under-17 World Cup. Now a tournament of this proportion would not only get the world’s attention to Indian Football but an initiative to take Indian Football to the World stage in the best possible way. Whether it is a stepping stone for India to take Football to the highest level, or one of the many great things to have happened to Indian Football which is followed by a downward spiral, or even worse what if it is a replica of the Commonwealth Games fiasco, only time can tell.