Indian football is played down
If you are not Indian or have little knowledge of Indian football, this will mean nothing to you. But the intense rivalry between the two teams spans 86 years, having first come head to head in 1925. Even today, fanatics pack out the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata – the largest stadium in the Indian sub continent – which has an overwhelming capacity of 120,000.
Hailing from West Bengal, my mum is an avid Mohun Bagan supporter (the oldest club in Asia). And with his roots firmly embedded in the country now known as Bangladesh, my dad backs East Bengal. And when one team beats the other, I never hear the end of it.
This passion for football has a historical stronghold in India, having been introduced by British soldiers in the middle of the 19th century. Today, football players from grassroots to established professionals sweat blood and tears to raise their game.
So why, then, is India positioned 164th in the world, according to FIFA world rankings? Is talent an issue? Are the people not as passionate about the sport as they make out? Is cricket really the biggest rage? Is it a lack of money? Neglected infrastructure? Poor nurturing of talent? Insincere politics?
Indian football yet to score
While researching this topic, I’m coming across all of the above as answers to the question of why Indian football is flailing, but I feel that there’s more to it than this.
Right this moment, there are tireless efforts being made across the populated country to boost Indian football. And football academies by renowned teams, such as Manchester United Soccer School and Liverpool’s Steve Mcmahon Football Academy, are establishing themselves in various cities, claiming to nurture the potential they believe exists.
So what are the real reasons why Indian football struggling? This question, yet to be answered satisfactorily, has led me to base my final MA Journalism project on this exact topic. And I am learning more about Indian football myself as I go along.
After travelling around India, speaking to many people from football officials to aspiring players and carrying out investigations here in the UK, I know that India isn’t all about Bollywood and cricket bats. But why is the world yet to realise it?
Football is not just an Englishman’s game and it is not just Europeans and South Americans that can play. Indian men AND women can also pass, dribble and score; the problem lies in the strategies adopted by Indian officials and an insufficient understanding of how to reach the end goal.
As the saying goes: “In life, as in football, you won’t go far unless you know where the goalposts are.” (Arnold H. Glasgow).
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