From beating the colonialists at their own game to being called the Brazil of Asia, only to plummet into an era of darkness, Indian football have been through a lot. From being introduced as a past time sport in the fields of the legendary Hare School in Calcutta, to the glamorous ISL, it has been quite a long and tough journey for the beautiful game in India. But the question still arises, has India finally made its mark in the world of football? The question always evokes a sense of mixed reaction from the football loving masses. While, some might say the newly hosted U-17 football World Cup has showcased India’s talents. But, a slightly closer look will suggest otherwise.
The Indian U-17 team despite putting up brave fight against the likes of USA, Ghana, Columbia still finished the world cup with zero points, scoring one and conceding eight goals in 3 matches. The world cup did have its positive impact also. The stadiums got renovated, the infrastructure upgraded. The Salt Lake Stadium is now one of the finest footballing stadiums in Asia. And also, the colts got the necessary exposure in the International stage. The most important change that the U-17 world cup has bought in India, is that people have now started to take interest in Indian football. Non footballing cities like Delhi saw a sold out stands for the Indian National team matches.
The men’s senior team has also qualified for the Asia Cup in 2019 with some style, putting up a 13 run unbeaten streak. The superb vein of form saw the team jumping from a dismal 173 in the rankings to 96 in a span of months. The Indian national team is currently ranked at 102. No doubt there is decent improvement observed in the National team, but how this Indian team would perform against the likes of Japan, South Korea, Iran, Australia and the other traditional powerhouses of Asian football is yet to be seen. Can the likes of Sunil Chettri, Sandesh Jinghan inspire India to new heights in the Asia Cup? Lets, all hope that they can. They can put the country back in the maps of world football. And mostly bring a complete revolution in the football culture of the country, where we can see none of us are ashamed to wear the football team jersey with the names of Chettri,Jhingan written on the back rather than Ronaldo or Messi. Let’s, hope that this AFC Cup does to Indian football what the Euro Cup did to Iceland.
With the times changing, we are still unsure of what path Indian football is leading to. From alienating state football federations to the traditional, prestigious tournaments like Rovers Cup,IFA Shield, Duran Cup losing their importance in the game. We can only wonder where, we are heading towards? The continuous fiasco of having two national level leagues. The cash rich IPL type tournament, ISL and the traditional national league, the I league running simultaneously is doing more harm than good for the game in country. The Aiff needs to come up with a plan, a roadmap for Indian football as quickly as possible. Or else, we would see more clubs shutting shop and becoming pages in the history rather than fulfilling their potential and taking the country to further heights. It would be interesting to see what the governing body has up their sleeves to steer the country out of the situation and put forward a full proof roadmap.
Will the golden era of the 1950s return back or will India forever remain as the sleeping giant in the world of football? Questions that only time will answer, while we as football fans can only hope. After all, it is hope what keeps our dreams alive. Let’s hope that the clouds hanging above the Indian football clears and we are able to see the golden sky soon.
“Walk on, walk on
with hope in your hearts
and you’ll never walk alone”