News Karnataka
Thursday, April 25 2024
World at Feet

Football in India needs accelerated aid to hit back strong

Football in India needs accelerated aid to hit back strong
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There is a rising need for football to be brought to the bigger platforms at the earliest. Statistics say that over 30 million Indians watch foreign football leagues in India. Hundreds of them travel across countries to support their favourite player or team. This means that India is not behind in supporting and loving the game. But unfortunately, not many people watch Indian competitions like the I-League, Santosh Trophy and Nehru Cup. Certainly, the quality of the game played is vastly different, however. The responsibility should also be charged partially to cricket, a dominant sports culture in India. In fact, a few journalists and analysts claim that the 1983 cricket world cup caused a massive negative impact on the foot-based game.

Football in India was promoted during the days of the British Empire. Those days several football clubs and organizations in India were formed. Initially, major tournaments were played between army teams only; however, the clubs were soon set up and introduced to larger platforms around the country. The historians claim that Mohun Bagan Athletic Club was set up in what is now West Bengal and is considered the oldest football club in Asia. The club became famous in 1911 when it became the first Indian team to lift the IFA Shield, a tournament previously won only by British teams based in India. It defeated the Eastern Yorkshire Regiment 2-1 in the final of the tournament in a victory that is still regarded by many as the greatest by an Indian team before Independence. Even initial post-independence period the Indian team had climbed larger platforms like the Olympics and FIFA, much before cricket had seen higher glories. But the Indian practice of playing barefoot hit the Indians so hard that even today India hasn’t found a means to shake it off and hit back strong.

Today if one closely analyses Indian football, only Kerala and West Bengal have fostered fertile environments for football. However Northeast and Goa also share better participation in the game. It will be unfair not to acknowledge the supporters, that even today, thousands of people buy tickets to watch football matches. But when foreign matches are acclaimed highly and cricket is celebrated like a festival, domestic football seems lost.

Coaches, parents and everyone acknowledges that the kids in India have a lot of talents but the reality of the lack of infrastructure no one seems to be considering on a big scale. For the kids, there are no fields to train. There are only a small number of grounds across cities available that are already occupied by either the cricket players or the senior footballers. The question of the hundreds of junior football teams for a ground to practice has no answer. Most of the premier government grounds are stollen by the cricket teams and hardly footballers have opportunities. Even if the government spares ground for junior footballers, they are of very poor quality which exposes the players to injuries. Yes, there are a few private grounds across cities but are costing huge amounts which the majority of the kids can’t even think of.

Ajay Tomar, a Football player and journalist once said, that in spite of all the shortcomings, Indian football is definitely on the rise, with ISL and I league being conducted in a scheduled manner. However, a few things need to be addressed. From making football into a regional sport dominated by a few states like Bengal, Kerala, Goa and the northeast, its popularity needs to be pan-India. He also called for concrete actions to strengthen state federations to develop basic infrastructure like more academies, recruit more coaches and conduct timely state A, B, and C division leagues. Creating more opportunities for the younger generation will only take India towards better prospects in football was his dominant note.

Creating a strong fan base largely also depends on the live streaming of matches. League football has been played in India for a long time, but since the launch of the Indian Super League in 2014, football has become more popular, with the league being broadcast live and on television, connecting new fans to football. The only reason why the newly started ISL is more popular than the old I-League in India is because of the promotion they do and the large media reach. Therefore, the regime needs to move a step ahead to facilitate more media reach for the games that deserve especially games like football.

There is a strong need to promote football at the grassroots level in India. In all places, the government needs to establish new football centres and provide training to the youth, especially kids who showcase incredible skill sets in football.

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