Indian Football : Extinct Dinosaur or Sleeping Elephant?

Ah. Indian football. Always a nice topic to write about, especially by a guy who knows exactly zero things about it. There’s always this tiny little question that’s nagging me about it, always in my head, a quiet voice that just wont shut up when I watch England and France battle it out.


Up until now, I’ve never really found any answers for it. Let’s recount :

1) Indian football peaked as the British left India. They automatically qualified for the 1950 World Cup after other Asian teams withdrew but were barred from playing as they were barefooted.

2) They were one of the founding members of the Asian Football Confederation

3) They won Gold medals at 2 Asian games and have the best performance by any Asian team in the Olympics. They finished fourth, beating Australia 4-2. They then lost 4-1 to Yugoslavia and lost 3-0 to Bulgaria in the 3rd place playoff.

Then started the decline, which is exceptionally tragic, of Indian football. I say tragic because football is such a simple game and its simplicity makes it beautiful. You can play it with anything, anywhere using anything.

For example, you can designate your shoe as the football and arrange 4 chairs to be the goalposts inside a classroom. That’s why its called the beautiful game. You don’t even need a ball to play it. Compare this with other games like basketball, cricket, hockey, volleyball, baseball or rugby.

I’m not going to spill statistics here. I can confidently say that the decline started because of stupid, fucking political interference.

That’s why our Olympic and athletic team sucks, that’s why our hockey team has started sucking, and that’s why they’ll all continue to suck : because all politicians consider sports as their personal fiefdoms. No seriously, before you start accusing me of having a politikphobia, think about it.

The hockey team manager, was recently sacked because of his outspoken comments about the selection procedures and his utter limitation and restriction of powers. The same happened to Bob Houghton, who was accused of being racist to an Indian football official and subsequently sacked, despite the Indian football players’ claims to the contrary.

So these guys in power are megalomaniacs who don’t know shit about the sport and just want..what??

I don’t know. If they want glory, they’re not actively doing anything about it. If they want to generate money, they’re not doing anything about it. I just don’t understand what they’re doing. Infact, they’re just pure megalomaniacs who feel like they should control something with no foreseeable purpose.


The BCCI is also somewhat controlled by politicians, but its making oodles and oodles of money only because the Indian cricket team started being successful from 1983, which the politicians promptly capitalized on, and the Indian cricket team garnered support as the rest of the sports languished and this peaked with the entry of a superstar like Sachin Tendulkar and India’s consistent World Cup performances. It’s not going to decline because of the IPL, the entry of Dhoni and the new found World Champion status.

But who is to say more than one sport cannot thrive in a country?

So that’s the problem with Indian football. It’s a vicious circle.

1) They need to start being successful to attract attention. And by successful I mean actually go and win games that don’t involve teams like Singapore or North Korea. I mean win against teams like Australia, then teams that are of Japans calibre, then the top 30 teams, then cause a coup d’etat by beating a top team (like the Indian cricket team beat the Windies in 1983). They need to do that.

2) But to do that they need to get proper infrastructure. They need to get a higher quality and calibre of players. But who will come and join a career with no possible rewards in it? I don’t know how many of the 500 million men in India are supremely talented in football, but I can guarantee that more than 1000 are, atleast. We need to convince those 1000, or even if its not 1000, those 500, or 250, or 100, to play for the country and for glory. We need to find them.

3) Even if they’re found, without infrastructure, there’s no point. With political interference and pathetic facilities and no possible return, who in their right minds will come anywhere close to the Indian team?

4) Even assuming that we find 22 exceptionally talented footballers, they can’t win without crowd support. That’s always there, right? You can’t deny it.

5) But why will the crowd support them if they’re not winning? Just because they’re India? That’s not how our mentality is.

So they need to win to get crowds, and they need crowds to win. They need infrastructure and good players to win. They need to win to get infrastructure and good players. It’s just such a horrible vicious circle.

Indian football is in need of a Sachin Tendulkar moment now. It’s Sunil Gavaskar moment (Baichung Bhutia) is over. We need that guy, that team, which will play their hearts out so that they can win crowds over.

But you know, even that is not possible. I’m not saying cricket is not a team game, but on a given day if 2 players do well, any team is likely to win. But football is a proper team game. If just two players do well, the team will goddamned suck. Like India.

So when I say Sachin Tendulkar moment, I want a team of 22 football players who are like Tendulkar and have the influence on the sport in the country like he did.

I hope you’re getting my drift.

I’m not unpatriotic and neither am I accusing other Indians of being unpatriotic. It’s just more like, you tend to support your national team if it wins rather than a national team that doesn’t win. We’re all proud of our chess players because they’re winning. Viswanathan Anand and Koneru Humpy are awesome. If they did not, who would give a fuck about Indian chess?

Expand that analogy to Indian football and you can see where I’m getting at. The Indian cricket team won fans because it won the World Cup. India needs to atleast qualify for the World Cup to have any hope of getting fans.

Trust me, I know 13542616164 people who are self proclaimed pundits in English football. India has a huge huge huge number of football fans. Atleast, urban India does. All of them go “GGMU” or “YNWA” or “Arsenal will win this season” or “Chelsea sucks”.

If the Indian team qualified for a World Cup despite all odds, the media will go berserk. So will its people. So will all my friends and their friends and their friends and their relatives. India has a huge number of football fans. The Indian football team does not have too many fans.

I don’t know if my analysis is wrong, but the Indian team looks dead and is ranked 145 in the Fifa rankings, below freaking Central African Republic, Zimbabve, Mozambique and CANADA.

Come ON! We’re not THAT bad.

But I don’t think it’s actually dead. It’s just..dormant. If it wakes up and starts running, people will probably notice it when it crashed into something, like the World Cup. Right now, no one cares and all the mosquitoes and leeches (read : politicians) are sucking the life out of it.

Yeah, I own metaphors.

I hope the Indian team does something of value soon, because I just want to go and wave my flag with so many others for 90 minutes.

Posted on May 26, 2011, in Personal Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Awesome … I am a different view in this.
    why some high edge ppl of other sports block Football in order not to turn ppl towards Football

  2. Until this post, i swear, i seriously dint know India even had/has a football team O_o
    I thought Baichung Bhutia belonged to some other sport :O

  3. It actualy has to start Frm us. The viewers. We need to watch more of the I league n stuff. It might nt hav world class players like the EPL but it has some homegrown talent. Oly if v encourage such talent the footbal authorities ll broadcast it more and giv more importance to it.
    And,i dont know how many of u know,there is goin to be a football premier league like the IPL. Inamoto and edgar davids and more such players hav said they ll cum. Hopefuly it should increase d popularity of the game in india.

  4. ya popularizing game is much needed.. Ya v do follow epl clubs more, but is I League broadcasted to watch or follow?No.. Atleast those in AIFF Should know that v hav thrust to watch football and develop it but they r not doing it.. But still i’m seeing increase in popularity of game.. i dont follow or watch ipl but even in its ads there is football i nearly saw 3ads which had football topic in it e.g 7up argentina,reliance hd etc

  5. we need 2 popularaise d sport in india……….

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