Is FIFA waiting for the sleeping giant India?

Mukesh Kumar
New Delhi | Updated :
17 June 2018, 08:02 AM
Is FIFA waiting for the sleeping giant India?
Is FIFA waiting for the sleeping giant India?

The football capital of India-Kolkata is celebrating the beauty of the game and fans are painting the town red amidst the high fever-pitched FIFA World Cup 2018. 

Nowhere in India can you find such diehard football fans than in West Bengal. The craze of the World Cup 2018 is so high that some have even painted their houses in the colours of their favourite teams.

Argentina and Brazil used to be the two favourite teams to cheer for in earlier days but now countries like France, Spain, Germany and Portugal have become equally popular. 

Football is one of the world’s most popular sports. Over 250 million people across over 200 countries play football but when it comes to India the zest for the game is not as zealous as cricket.

The wait for the football dream

The dream to see India play in FIFA is hosted in the eyes of every sports fan in India.

Just the other day, the match between Portugal and Spain was a delight to watch. The brilliant moment of the game was Cristiano Ronaldo’s freekick. The ball sliced the air in swinging trajectory and entered the Spanish goalpost. The match was a draw at three goals each, courtesy to Ronaldo‘s hattrick.

Chhetri’s touching appeal for support

Not many would know that Sunil Chhetri the skipper of Indian Football team now stands alongside the famous Lionel Messi of Argentina in terms of goals scored by active international goal scorers. Anyone who has seen him play will no doubt endorse his skills as an apt player. The elegance in which he dribbles the ball reminds of some of the legends.

Recently, Chhetri had posted an emotional video on Twitter urging fans to come to stadium and support them. “ …it’s not fun to criticise or abuse on internet, come to the stadium ,do it on our face, scream at us, shout at us, abuse us, who knows one day, one day we might change you guys, you might start cheering for us, please come...” these were a part of his words in the message.

As FIFA 2018 advances, a plethora of questions progresses, why was the skipper of Indian football team required to put an appeal for support? Are we too engrossed in the glamour of cricket that we don’t want to look beyond it? Is it that difficult to find 11 Sunil Chetris in a population of over 1.25 billion people? Why do we see so many cricket players in commercial endorsement and not football? Are the corporate organisations, media and the government not doing enough for the game?

The approach towards football as a sport

Currently, the highest authority of football in India is the All India Football Federation (AIFF). It’s an organisation which is being run by elected officials across the country. Praful Patel is the President of AIFF. A little dive into Praful Patel reveals that he is more of a politician and business man than a sports person. Are the members of the AIFF governing body technically equipped to handle the emerging trends and benchmarks of the world of football? Doubtful.

The right approach would be let professionals do their job both at the directory level as well as on the field. In South American and European countries, a genuine attempt is made to recognise footballing talent as early as the age of three years and the result is there for the world to see.

The need of the hour

Chhetri is right, it’s only the people who can give football and its players their due credit. If cricket can become a religion in India so can football. The need of the hour is to identify talent early, nurture them, provide them the right kind of infrastructure and surely the day won’t be far when the Indian soil will witness legends of football.
First Published: Saturday, June 16, 2018 07:26 PM
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