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Football roadmap

17 Oct. 2017 11:53 PM IST

Football in India is not new. In fact, some 100 years ago on July 29,1911, eleven barefoot Indian natives created history by winning a football match. The men wore the green and maroon jerseys of Mohun Bagan and beat a British team called the East Yorkshire Rifles 2-1 to win the IFA Shield. It was the first time an Asian team had beaten any European team to win a football championship. Calcutta was then the Mecca of Indian football and it was also an achievement for people of the north east when Dr. Talimeren Ao led the first Indian Olympic football team at the 1948 London Olympics. Indian football was then ascending and though the country did not go beyond the qualification stage, it continued to produce world class players. India is currently ranked 105th in FIFA rankings and rather than showing improvement, its ranking keeps getting worse every year. Why has India, which was on the ascendency in football, fallen to the bottom rank, when other countries like Burkina Faso ranked 55th under FIFA but with less than 2 % of India’s population (125 crore) or Croatia ranked 18 but with hardly 4 crore people are way ahead?.The current U-17 FIFA World Cup being hosted by India, is a rare opportunity which gauged the standard of Indian football. Unfortunately, India lost all the group matches by big margins: to USA by 3-0, to Colombia by 2-1 and Ghana by 4-0. Unfortunately, though football enjoys overall popularity in India yet it is miles behind Cricket when it comes to funds and infrastructure. While football is played by over 200 nations, cricket is played only by 18 former colonies of the British empire. The standard of Indian football can only improve if the little and few and far between successes are not blown out of proportion. For instance, during the league stages, India played like any other team but lost 2-1 to Colombia, a not very strong team. However, the misplaced praise went to the single goal scored which was billed as a historic goal; as if to mean it was the decider. Football needs to be based on grass root foundation and a league system that promotes and rewards talented players. In addition, there is need to hold few more international standard tournaments in India like the India Super League (ISL). The other domestic league, known as the I-League has not been very successful in comparison with the ISL in terms of attendance. The I-League has an average attendance figure of 5618 (2013–14 I-League) whereas the ISL has seen a tremendous increase in attendance with an average of 23,760 (2014 Indian Super League season). In addition, the ISL is watched by more fans on TV than the world cup. Having gripped the imagination of football lovers, the ISL now has to go deeper in developing and promoting grass root level football where young children can be brought up. The most important issue: It will take time, but India will get there. Rome was not built in a day!

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