Well, just a few days back, a friend of mine, who is also a former Ranji trophy player, jokingly commented that Indian sport lovers will find it difficult to spend their time as the grand gala show of IPL has concluded. I pointed out that FIFA world cup is going to start within a few days and people will enjoy supporting their favourite team. Soon the conversation turned into a debate as to what are the prospects for overall growth of football in India.
Before moving forward, let us have a quick glimpse of the few golden achievements scaled by the Indian national football team in the past. Many of my friends will be delighted to note that in 1956 India became first Asian nation to reach the semi finals of Melbourne Olympics, after defeating Australia 4-2 in quarter finals. The Indian team also won a gold won in the 1951 New Delhi Asian games and the 1962 Jakarta games. India was a runner up in the 1964 Asia cup and won a bronze in the 1970 Bangkok Asian games.
The following are the 5 prime issues hampering the growth of football in India:
1) Lack of infrastructure: There is an acute shortage of quality infrastructure when it comes to football. Right from stadiums, training facilities, coaches, fitness facilities etc. This area has been neglected since many years and despite big claims, most of our stadiums are not even of Asian standard
2) Prime importance given to cricket: From the very beginning, cricket has been the number one sport in India. Once India lifted the 1983 world cup, interest levels shot up even further. With the availability of live broadcasting, cricket became a religion. Unfortunately, India could not achieve anything in football in this period and fell further behind. The glamour and big bucks graced cricket, but other sports are far behind
3)Football is confined to limited areas: The major footballing activity in the country is limited to Bengal, Goa and the North East. Despite new clubs coming up in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, the number of professional footballers is very low
4) Big plans and no action: AIFF has promised a lot of development, but there has been limited headway. The football body has been earning a fair amount through TV broadcasting deals of the I-league. However, the earnings have not been fruitfully utilized in order to ensure growth
5) Lack of mechanism to identify and promote talent: There is a lack of a mechanism which can identify talent at a young stage and nurture it. There is a need for grassroot programs which can ensure that talent is promoted. There is no dearth of talent in India, it’s just the lack of nurturing