Isn’t a bit odd for Delhi, home to Indian football’s parent body, not to have an I-League team? While all that football hype that we usually see in the capital, it still doesn’t reflect the true picture of the game in the state.
In a stark resemblance to Old Delhi’s crumbling walls, football has fallen into pieces in the Capital which houses the All India Football Federation (AIFF) at Dwarka.
Most of these clubs have lost the motivation to run their teams due to lack of funds which, however, can only be generated if only there is a marketing drive. But the worst part is that the clubs doesn’t know how to be market oriented as mostly septuagenarians hold sway with a firm grip just like any other sports associations in the country.
Delhi’s football probably is the worst I’ve seen ever since 1996.
The clubs simply didn’t make an effort to attract a new generation of young fans. They were just too busy in club politics which sadly had stalled all football activities in early 80s and 90s due to a long-drawn court battle.
Not that the situation is better now as the association needs a complete revamp if Asian Football Confederations (AFC) guidelines are any yardstick to put things in the right perspective.
But surprisingly not even the AIFF reprimand the Delhi Soccer Association (DSA) as we all know how important a ‘vote’ counts during the federation’s AGMs after every four years.
Actually, the downslide had started couple of years later after EPL was beamed live to the Indian drawing rooms. I still remember the capacity crowd at Ambedkar Stadium in 1996-97 season, when Old Delhi’s once two-top clubs Indian National and City FC Senior locked horns in the Senior Division Final in 1997-98.
But the euphoria was short-lived as DSA ran out of ideas in the following years on how to make the event more market, media and spectator friendly.
City FC, which last won the DSA league in 1997,and Nationals once boasted of a huge fan base in Old Delhi. But their fans too seemed to have lost interest as a new breed of young Delhiites are now more keen on watching the European Leagues than follow, the less attractive Delhi League which now has become an eyewash.
Just like other Indian states, Delhi clubs always ignored the importance of youth teams. Nobody is interested to maintain a youth team which however has been a strict AFC guideline. Still, there has been no word of caution from the federation to the local association where officials lack complete managerial skills.
Delhi football’s decline can also be attributed to some well-known schools who doesn’t patronise football as they used to do in the 50s, 60s and even in the 70s. Many top Delhi players came from Anglo-Arabic (Ajmeri Gate), PGDAV (Daryaganj) and Raisina Schools (Bengali Market) where there are virtually no takers for the game today.
In earlier times, the Walled City’s businessmen patronised and supported some of these clubs. They used to divert a part of their business money into football because of their sheer passion.
But once the dribble for power in DSA became more important than the game, the once passionate followers from Old Delhi also lost interest. In one case, Shastri FC owners sold their club four years back after they suffered a huge financial loss in their family business.