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Indian Football and the Indian Media

The Cricket World Cup is at its peak and with India facing arch rival Pakistan in the Semi –Final, the whole nation is up on their heels, waiting for 30th March. Can India maintain its cent percent winning record against Pakistan in the World Cup or will Pakistan this time turn the table around? This has been the talking point gripping the nation at the moment. Every single person in the tea stalls, buses, metros, offices, schools, colleges and social networking sites are talking in unison about Dhoni and his boys.

Over 2000 miles away from India in Malaysia, away from the glare of the nation, the young Jeje has been pinning hope for a bright future of Indian Football. Yes the new look India Football Team, playing the qualifier of AFC challenge Cup 2012, have completed their mission successfully and even top the group. “The Blue Tigers” (A name suggested by Indian Football fans over “Bhangra Boys”) defeated Chinese Taipei, Pakistan and drew a match with Turkmenistan.

Hoping for this day to come soon.

Prior to playing the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers, India successfully booked their place for the second round of London Olympic qualifier after defeating Myanmar (Agg. 3-2) in home and away play off. CS Sabeeth scored the equalizer in the away leg. He would have already been a household name, with lucrative endorsement coming his way, if the game in which he helped India was Cricket and not football.

Coming to the point, at a time when Indian football is undergoing a drastic change at all level, I have been very disappointed with the way, the leading Indian media house are covering Indian football. Its true there is nothing substantial or worthwhile covering in Indian Football. But they can be given a space or an air time at least when they are winning games. Instead newspapers carry a front page picture of Dhoni and his wife taking bath in the sea.

Most of the leading newspapers carry pages and pages of cricket info ranging from the silliest news to four five experts putting in the same opinion in a different way. Let it be so…I am not complaining. But give decent coverage to Indian football also. Even here leave aside covering clubs. At least give decent coverage to the National Team when they are playing international tournaments.

It was again so disappointing to see no TV channel in India broadcasting the Olympic Qualifiers and the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers. We know AIFF had terminated contract with Zee Sports (now TEN Action) and the new contract signed with Reliance-IMG has not been put in place as yet. And we also know ESPN/Star Sports will not come forward to broadcast India playing football without a contract. My question here is “What the hell has been/is DOORDARSHAN SPORTS doing”?

Doordarshan being a national channel should shoulder the responsibility of promoting games and sports which the mainstream Television channels ignore due to financial reasons. Instead they kept on repeating the same CWG, Asian Games and National Games events. What enraged me the most was on seeing DD Sports broadcasting the Cricket World Cup matches LIVE even when some never heard off cricketing nations were playing. DOORDARSHAN, we are not asking you to show us Chinese Taipei versus Turkmenistan football match. We just want to watch football matches involving the Indian National Football team.

Last resort to watch a match (AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers) not telecast by any Television Channel is through LIVE streaming on the internet. But unfortunately for the Indian football lovers, even this hope was torn apart as there was not a single site streaming the match. POOR INDIAN FOOTBALL LOVERS were ripped of the chance to watch their favorite football heroes in action. With no other means left, football lovers across the country had to resort to live updates on football sites to know the status of the match.

Surprisingly, this hope was also shattered as not a single leading football websites had a LIVE commentary running. It was only TheHardTackle.com (in my knowledge) which came up with intermittent updates. So, what does one expect the Football lovers to do in this situation? Curse the media, throw volley of slangs to AIFF and Doordarshan people and lastly go and watch a Cricket match.

Here the AIFF could have stepped in and come up with a running live commentary on its website. Actually, they could have done this long before whenever India play matches. Why only matches involving the national team, being the governing body of game, they should cover all the football matches being played in India ranging from Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy to Subroto Cup to I-League. I wonder if they have ever thought of it with the football and management brain they have. Is there anyone amongst you listening?

Moreover it’s entirely the AIFF’s failure to generate publicity for the Indian Football. Not even one percent of the population knows that India National Football team is playing a match against Pakistan. On the contrary at least 5% of India’s population knows the India Cricket team’s schedule for the year.

What can the Football Lovers do when a bunch of people with vested self interest are running the federation without any football brain. Let us just keep hoping that it will improve some day. And with Reliance-IMG shouldering the responsibility of taking Indian Football ahead, I hope there will certainly be a change and the change will be for the better.

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