A country of over a billion people can’t produce a football team that can make it to the top level despite two out of five people sporting football club jerseys on the streets during weekends. Here are what I think could be the reasons for that.
1. Kicking is an offence according to our culture.
2. When the players from the other team come to our territory, we say ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ and make way for them to score goals.
3. We Indians lack sense of time. By the time we come to terms with the impact ‘time’ can have on the game, the referee would have decided the injury time. A little too late by then, perhaps.
4. In India, every person who guards a certain place has a tendency to doze off within no time. Watchmen, security guards, policemen, politicians. . .goal-keepers.
5. Your parents always advised you to buy shoes one size bigger than the size of your foot. Dear footballer, that doesn’t work here.
6. Indians are not used to running continuously – courtesy stray dogs.
7. Corruption, caste system, reservation, poverty – the good ones hardly make it to the top.
8. Everybody here wants to lead and be ahead of others. Everybody wants to be in the limelight. So every kid who starts playing football wants to be a striker or play forward. Only the lazy/disinterested ones choose the role of a defender or a goal-keeper. Yes, it happens only in India.
9. Pakistan doesn’t play football. And England have been long forgiven for what they did to our country. So there’s no urgent need to buck up and start playing football.
10. Sachin Tendulkar neither plays football nor takes a break from cricket to go watch a football match (Federer fans would know what this exactly means).
11. There is a very limited number of football grounds in India. And there are far too many cows and sheep that graze on every little patch of grass left in the country. The kids end up playing on streets and muddy fields instead.
12. Rowdy nature is present in the DNA of us Indians. So when we tackle, we tackle really hard. As Russell Peters would say, ‘Somebody’s gonna get a hurt real bad’. With the red card and the referees, it works totally against our style of play.
13. Girls in India don’t even know the ‘F’ of football. And no matter how good a guy is at the game, unless he’s cute, he won’t get any attention from the women. So the guys tend to choose cricket or music instead.
14. Most Indians, even those who love football, are cricket freaks first. And they are naturally pretty strong on the off-side. Doesn’t help in football, does it?
15. Indian kids are always worried about how their parents would react if their scores are in single digits. Or perhaps even zero. Such is football!