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"Our Time is Now": A Glance at Indian Football's Chequered Past and Promising Future

The glory days of Indian football are long past
By Pradyut Hande

For decades, Indian Football has languished in the quagmire of mediocrity and inconsistency. After qualifying for the 1950 Football World Cup (India never played the Tournament for harebrained reasons); many would have thought that the country was well on its way to becoming a promising footballing outfit. For a while, India was one of the top Asian sides; stamping its authority with flair and panache over stronger neighbours at regional Tournaments. However, as has often been the case, the nation flattered to deceive and soon descended into the vicious spiral of non performance as many other countries leapfrogged us in the rankings. Over time a sense of despondency began to fester in the minds of the most jingoistic Indian Football aficionado.

Today, India languishes at a woeful 168 on the official FIFA rankings; much to the chagrin of those associated with the sport. This is the lowest the country has ever been on the rankings and certainly does not paint a positive picture. Why have we struggled to shirk off our lackadaisical attitude and infuse greater vigour and direction in our Footballing machinery? What are the ailments that have collectively crippled our quest to improve as a Footballing nation?

For starters, Indian Football has suffered from generic Government apathy for a protracted period of time. The association of power hungry politicos with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) who lack the experience, initiative and inspiration to helm a body of such significance has been a constant source of consternation. In the absence of proactive leadership at the top, the AIFF has continued to flounder akin to a rudderless vessel in the tumultuous waters of caprice. Additionally, poor infrastructure and logistical impediments have further added to our woes. The paucity of funds and deplorable mobilization and allocation of resources has also been a continual bugbear. Our system has also been found wanting with regards to the identification and appropriate grooming of new talent. The lack of international exposure, substandard coaching and limited training opportunities are also key concerns that ought to be addressed. These are but a few woes that have hindered our progress over the years.

 

India's football icon for many years Bhaichung Bhutia has now retired
As I write this, India is presently participating in the ongoing Nehru Cup in its quest to defend its title. Having beaten a higher ranked Syria in its opening game, an air of quiet confidence pervades the team. Under the aegis of a new Manager in Wim Koevermans and a refreshingly balanced squad; India look to embark on a bold, new journey. The retirement of reliable bulwarks such as Bhaichung Bhutia, Rennedy Singh and Mahesh Gawli has presented a talented crew of youngsters with the opportunity to shine on the international stage. The period of transition will be facilitated by the presence of experienced stars in Sunil Chhetri, Clifford Miranda, Anthony Perreira and Gourmangi Singh. With new talent coming through the ranks, the future definitely appears bright. The infusion of private investment, improving infrastructure and talent management stemming from the sport's rapidly increasing profile and popularity in the country augurs well for the future.

It is now a matter of laying the sound foundations for a dynamic future. Myopic initiatives undertaken at this point in time will only prove to be counter productive. We have the talent; we are witnessing the benefits of "incremental amelioration". All we need is the intent, ambition and belief to "kick goal-wards" if we are to "score" heavily in the future.

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Pradyut Hande
The Writer is a Business student with a degree from NMIMS, Mumbai. He is presently working as a Senior Executive with a leading Public Relations firm in Mumbai. He has over 200 publications to his credit in some of the leading national dailies and weekly magazines across the country. He is also a keen Debater, Munner, Quizzer, Painter and Amateur Freestyle Rapper. His other interests include Sports, Music, Reading, Travelling and Social Entrepreneurship

 

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