Wish of an Aamjunta – to Wave Indian Flag in World-cup Football

With the line-ups for the world-cup football quarter-finals are drawn, one would be wondering what would have happened to the defending champion Italy and might France, England and Portugal after their respective losses in the world-cup. Every one including the Prime Ministers of their respective countries have witnessed the thrilling moments of the world-cup, be it Germany vs. England or Portugal vs. Spain, Slovakia vs. Italy or or some thing else. World-cup football has certainly attracted a huge number of viewers worldwide, both on-the field and off-the field. 🙂 And what about Indian viewers 🙂 ? It is worth mentioning here that India out numbered the world in world-cup football! Surprised? Hold on…

Yes, the number of Indian viewers have out numbered the viewers of all other countries in the world-cup. Looks like the football mania has also mesmerized the Indian viewers, true to the sense that football is a religion of its own type and is also a mega entertaining event! One will not be surprised to know that most of the viewers in India are pocketed – major sections are in West Bengal, Goa, Kerla, Tamil Nadu and North East states. Metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata too have large viewers. States like Odisha, Chhatisgarh, Bihar, Rajasthan also are not lagging behind. The number of viewers is certainly comparable (yes/no??) with that of IPL (Indian Premier League) and world-cup cricket.

But, then… the point we are discussing here is different; we are concerned about India’s past and future in world-cup football, not in the number of viewers. Think of a nation, whose 33% or more of 1.20 billion population is under the age of 14, where Cricket is considered to be a religion of its own type, and cricketers are treated as Gods… On a different perspective, the same nation is far away from qualifying for the world-cup football. Does the population or the number viewers help India to qualify? No….

The statistics on viewer-ship of football is definitely impressive. But, then… who is the gainer from this large viewer-ship?: The TV channel broadcasting world-cup in India?, Indian Football Team?, Indian Football in general?, Indian products shown in through advertisements in the world-cup? or Indian (aamjunta) in general? Without much deliberations, my fellow aamjunta(s) will agree to the fact that it is the TV channel and the advertised products — gainer of this mega event. To some extent, FIFA is also in that side as it collects a huge amount of royalty fee and broadcasting fee from the TV channels. And the losers? Question is on you aamjunta to answer!

Let us look at some more statistics. As per FIFA/Coca-Cola world ranking, current world rank of India is 133. Impressive? or pathetic? Certainly impressive, if you are looking the world ranking in the last decade or so, but quite pathetic in general. We are certainly ahead of our neighbouring south Indian countries, but far behind small countries like Japan, Korea (both North and South) and even small island countries like Fiji and Cuba. Even Sierra Leone whose population is less than that of Odisha is way ahead in the ranking. It is not the end of the statistics! The deeper we will go, will feel bad, worse and the worst 😦

If you visit the pages of History, you will not be surprised to know how the glory of Indian football is fading day-by-day. Interestingly, India had qualified for the first time in 1950 for the football world-cup, where it could not play as their request to play bare-foot was turned down and due to India’s poor financial condition (long sea journey, instead of air journey). Still, up-to 1960, India was in a position to at-least qualify for the world-cup football or to the Olympic football. Now 50 years have passed, and now we are not even in a position to show our supremacy in South Asian football matches, forget about Olympic or World-cup. We still lose in our matches against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even tiny Maldives.

Like the aamjunta here, many such Indians and foreigners must be wondering what would be the reason for India’s pathetic rank in the world ranking? Is it due to our love or obsession towards cricket? or is it due to poor infrastructure? or is it due to politics in sports? or is it due to lack of talents? Certainly, one will not agree to the fact that we do not have talents. With more than 33% of India’s population under the age of 14, how can we say that we do not have talents? Getting 11 talented young players is not that tough. Yes, we do have talents, but we do not channelize them in the right direction. In addition, we do not have infrastructure, clear vision, and calculated action to take our football to a global stage. We fail providing coaches to our young footballers. All our plans and strategies do not go beyond metros and are short-termed as well as short-sighted. There is absolutely no incentive to our football players. With this kind of condition, only a few gifted like Baichung Bhutia can only manage to struggle and play in the intentional level. His concerns are too synchronised with the theme of this article.

“[…] I was lucky in that I got a scholarship due to football and we had coaches in school, but it wasn’t the same as European kids get. Most Indian kids have this passion but without the qualified coaches at the grass-roots level. […]

[…] If only they could catch players at a young age because I definitely see a lot of talent here – even more talented than English players at a young age. […]”

-Baichung Bhutia, Captain, Indian National Football Team

Politics too take a front seat in the entire sorry state of Indina football. With Mr. Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi as the president of AIFF (All India Football Association) for 20 years, one wonders what brings India to this stage. After his death Civil Aviation Minister Mr. Praful Patel took the charge of AIFF. When the Indian aviation sector itself is in a sorry state, what kind of corrective and affirmative action can he take for Indian football? But, it is surprising to know that Mr. Patel has already received some award and appreciation for the success of Indian football after taking over the charges. But, where is the success? In paper or in the football field?

To add, I strongly debate that the club football culture is also spoiling the future of football in India. Can you ever imagine a football match between East Bengal vs. Mohun Bagan played in the Salt-Lake Stadium, Kolkata goes without any street fighting? It cannot be. For the people there, these club teams are like religion or god to them. The matches are not only played in the ground, but also played in media, in hearts, in politics and even in streets. These are like life and death for many people there. To be honest, our over enthusiasm and our over reaction to loss or win in such kind of matches not only spoil the sporting spirit, but also put pressure to the team managements to hire better foreign players for these clubs. Does this help Indian football in any way to rise? I doubt. Don’t you see that the football capital of India is busy only to satisfy the local fans? In fact, like club football, the IPLs in cricket too have spoiled the cricketing spirit and the result of this is already being witnessed in the T-20 world-cup cricket 2010.

Saying all these things, we the aamjunta cannot go scot free for the sorry state of Indian football. We never give due respect to even our successful footballers (not only footballers, even Olympic medallists and our National Hockey Team), where at the same time we are crazy even on our failed cricketers. What surprised me is our attitude towards sports other than cricket. Every second child in India is encouraged to play cricket, neither football and nor hockey even (forget about athletics). We are just ignorant in many cases, but yes, we are good viewers and are fans of European football clubs and South American/European football teams. At the time of world-cup, even the Indian fans of Argentina and Germany or fans of Brazil and Portugal are seen in street fights. Then, what made us not to make our very own football team and support them in the world-cup? Certainly it is not a day’s job, not even a year’s job; it requires at least a decade’s planning and vision, a good manager (not a politician, who is busy with so many other things), a dedicated and disciplined team, a good coach and supporting staff, facilities and above all our attitude change . 🙂

Hope India will reach that stage one day and wish, I will wave Indian flag in the 2014 world-cup and its subsequent editions. A long way for the Indian team and for India to go though.

Jai Hind.

but we do not have infrastructure, clear vision, and action to take our football to a global power
%d bloggers like this: