Downfall of a Soccer-Starved Country

By Partha Pratim Chandra

Calcutta, India, March 14, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio) Once a FIFA Official mentioned Indian Football (soccer) as a sleeping Goliath. But India’s devastating Performance in International Football Circuit earned them parody, it’s not Goliath any more, only sleeping. It’s only defeat, degradation and darkness that shrouded Indian Football for last two decades.

In Asia Challenge Cup that ended a few days back, India was knocked out of the group league match without any points. The defeat draws the true picture of Indian Football, its dying. Shooting, Archery, Chess has seen many Top ranking Indians, even Badminton or Tennis earns India international trophies at times, Hockey in India has also livened up a bit. Where on every other field of sports India has marched so far ahead, the FIFA Ranking of India has now gone down to 150. But the question is, why? Why the foreign coaches like Haughton or ………….. also couldn’t provide any positive input into Indian Football scenario, this report dwells on these delicate questions.

Lets see where the problems lie –

The Great Indian Football Map: The seed of success lies in the diversity; a good footballer can come out from the varied topography of India. In the north of the country the peoples are hard working, so perfect for defense, the eastern people are artistic and belong from an area with soft soil, so they can make a good midfielder or goal keeper, north-easterners are hard working and strong, perfect concoction for a fit and game-maker player. Southerners are of attacking nature, a good forward and leader.

These speculations were done by a FIFA official, long time back, in a discussion about Indian football. But today look at it, you’ll get tired to figure out the real layout of it. You’ll find only Bengal, Goa, Punjab and some north-eastern states playing the game. There was a time when South India produced stalwarts of Indian football, like Ulganathan, Arumay Naigam or Pungam Kannan, but today football in South India is nearly done for, and there’s nothing one can do about it. The scenario remains the same in rest of the country.

Professionalism and Infrastructure: Two big ZERO in both of the aspects. FIFA says so about Indian football. For many times these has been identified as the main culprit behind the downfall. Germany, England or Spain, they are like superpowers of football, keep them aside, and take a look at China, Japan or Korea, only proper infrastructure has made them a feared opponent in the field. China started to develop its infrastructure after 1970, first they started football academy in remotest parts of country, scientific training and sorting out of player started at a very early age, and then the players were made particularly for that position, yes, they ‘made’ footballers. If the infrastructure is good, a player can be made, but if there’s no infrastructure a talent can be lost. India is facing exactly the same problem. Suppose, with a dream that your son will be a footballer, you got him admitted in a football academy, then? Nothing. Possible outcome is doomed educational and professional career of your son. Reason? Lack of infrastructure. When in the same scenario, China or Japan will extract the footballer out of your child.

The Situation with I-league: In 1997 National League started, and a dream of boosted up Indian football began, but National League failed miserably. So I-League came into being from 2007.

Lack of Icon: If its cricket, close your eyes, and you’ll see a man’s face, Sachin Tendulkar. If Tennis, there’s Leander Paes. For Chess, there’s Viswanathan Anand. But football? Some will argue about Baichung Bhutia, but not even the huge media back up have been able to make him a national star or icon of the game. And after Bhutia situation is worse, Sunil Chetry or Rahim Nabi, no one is that much big a figure that the status of icon can be given to them.

The Indian football federations have failed depressingly to make an impact among next generation. Chuni Goswami, PKBanerjee or Sailen Manna was as talented as Sunil Gavaskar or Kapil Dev, still, in the part of popularity, the before said masters are less admired and less known. The foremost problem is not having an icon of Indian football. It’s lack of infrastructure that dragged India to this position.

Disclaimer - The author is a freelance journalist and the views in this article are his own.