India failed to emerge as football power by not quitting Commonwealth: Bose
New Delhi, Jun 17 (PTI) Parochialism has been affecting Indian football over the years but things might have been different had India left the Commonwealth in 1950 to join the soccer world full time, a new book claims.
India won the Asian Games football gold in 1951, again in 1962 and came fourth in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.
"Had soccer grabbed its chance, and Jawaharlal Nehru followed popular sentiment and left the Commonwealth, who is to say that today football, not cricket, would be the main sport of India," UK-based sports commentator Mihir Bose says.
"Had India left the Commonwealth in 1950, making Indian cricket a world outcast, and the Indian football gone to Brazil to play in the World Cup the same year, that by itself would have made India a football nation like Saudi Arabia which does not see playing in the World Cup an impossible dream," he argues in his book "Game Changer".
"Had India gone to the World Cup in 1950, it would have been playing the best of world football. In the 1950s, that was not possible for India in cricket. Matching wits against the best would have been a tremendous boost for the sport," Bose also told PTI.
"Football then was more popular than cricket, had reached more parts of the country, had links with Indian nationalism in the way cricket did not and playing in the World Cup would have boosted the game," he adds.
He also says that football in India did not really follow the game as it was played in the rest of the world and has been "wretchedly" led.
"Cricket administrators are bad but football have been worse," he alleges.
"Game Changer", published by Palimpsest, is a critical take on the English Premier League and has a special chapter on Indian football titled "First Words". The foreword is written by veteran football commentator Novy Kapadia.
"The England team may not have been a success but the Premier League is the most successful leagues in the world. It shows how English domestic football has reinvented itself in the last quarter of a century from being a league that was going nowhere and outclassed by La Liga and Serie A," Bose says about the EPL.
He says Indian clubs need to learn from the sides in the English Premier League on how to market themselves.
"English clubs are very good at reaching out to their fan base and making their club's name well known and reaching out beyond the football public."
But to really develop the sport, Indian clubs need to set up academies which can nurture young players, he suggests.
"Also they need to make sure their coaches go out into remote rural areas to seek out young players who could be turned into stars. They also need to develop links with clubs in England and other European countries so their young players can come to Europe to learn about the game. Their coaches should also do the same," Bose says.
According to him, Indian sports followers do not seem to be interested in the grass roots of the game and their focus seems to be on celebrity sports, and cricket in India has all the celebrities.
"It is not easy for football to compete with cricket. This will have to be a long process," he says.
"FIFA thinks Indian football is a great underdeveloped story of world football. Indian football has a long, rocky road ahead but it is not an impossible one. They can learn from how the English Premier League reinvented the game," he hopes.