India: A triumph for Football still miles away
We are a nation crazy about cricket. We all did mourn when our household idol Sachin decided to call time on his illustrious career last year. Cricket lost its most precious gem of recent years and maybe of all time. Cricket is a sport blindly and religiously followed in my country. You see every kid at the corner of the street holding a bat trying to emulate a six Yuvraj hit or a cover drive similar to Sachin’s. Its the time of the month that brings all the family together to celebrate the emphatic win India had over Pakistan. Calling it a religion might be doing injustice to its monstrous forte.
But in all its glory and triumph, the cricket ridden nation that is India, sometimes forgets that its the lesser sports that suffer or the more talented individuals who aren’t provided the greater platform or recognition in the light of Cricket. Cricket virtually overshadows every triumph or problem faced by any other sport in India. True, India has truly developed as one of the best Cricket playing countries over the last few years, but its development has caused many other sports to suffer in the dark.
India did have its glory days in Hockey in the yesteryears which are forgotten now. No one remembers the triumph or the achievements in Hockey. Let alone remember, ask a thousand people if they know how the captain is, I’ll be surprised even if half say the name of Sardara Singh.
Although Hockey did receive some recognition, the fate suffered by Football in the country is disheartening. Being an avid football fan, I’m disappointed every year with the kind of development that goes on in Indian football. India failed in its bid to defend the SAFF title going down 0-2 against Afghanistan in the final. India has won the competition six times out of 10 since its commencement.
The highly touted Indian Super League, a joint venture by IMG-Reliance and Star India, faced another setback as the tournament was postponed for the second time due to shortage of time and lack of International signings.
India could not even qualify for the final round of the AFC Challenge Cup, a tournament in which middle-rung Asian nations compete. India also played four International friendlies during the year, losing two, winning one and drawing the other.
There was some good news, though, as Indian football received its biggest boost with FIFA awarding the U-17 World Cup to the country. India also made an ambitious bid to bring the FIFA Club World Cup to its shores. Being the world’s second most populous nation, is it that difficult to find at least 11 world-class players that can compete at the highest level?
Sunil Chettri was the lone Indian flagbearer for India at an International stage, but his failed stint at Sporting CP caw him return to India and flourish, after taking a step backwards. Sunil Chettri showcases the precise fault of Indian football, its simply not good enough internationally. The AIFF Player-of-the-Year failed at MLS side Kansas City Wizards, then had a failed trial at Coventry and could not rise beyond the reserves at Sporting.
Others after him, Gouramangi Singh, Subrata Paul (both FC Vestsjaelland, Denmark), Nirmal Chhetri, Godwin Franco (both Fortuna Dusseldorf, Germany), haven’t really managed to make the cut, and Syed Rahim Nabi‘s expected trial with DC United doesn’t imbibe much confidence either.
Sesa FA striker Chukwudi Chukwuma broke the barrier by clinching a four-year deal with FK Teplice, a top division club in the Czech Republic.
Securing the hosting rights of the prestigious 2017 Under-17 FIFA World Cup was the lone silver lining in an otherwise disappointing and forgettable year gone by for Indian football.
No one expects the sport to take a giant leap forward amid the slow progress it is making but fans like me have no other option but to look expectantly towards the future.