Not less than often football is referred to as the biggest sport ever on the planet. People across the globe do enjoy the game playing, watching, and celebrating. How often have the Indians wondered where are the Indian footballers? However, if one closely analyses the history, football came to India earlier than cricket. Unfortunately, as the days went by cricket turned out to be a princely game and football sublimed only to the common man’s favourite list, particularly in eastern and southern India. Today cricket stands as the massive captivator of Indian sports, leaving little attention to all the rest.
Once when the former Indian football team captain Bhaichung Bhutia was asked, “when will India play in the FIFA World Cup?” He said, “I think it will remain a dream until we have a strong football culture.” Fortunately, or unfortunately, India is better known for its cricket culture than its football culture. Cricket culture is so massacring that the rest of the sports are struggling to fetch their glory as cricket does. While trying to project the dominance of cricket in the country it is not an attempt to degrade the game but an eye opener to project that football has miles to go to rise to that glory of cricket. To be remembered, it is not something that India can’t aim at.
For children, like any other interest, liking sports also starts from a young age. A country like India has been inclined more towards cricket because that is the sport which was played in their vicinity and bombarded on screens and everywhere. The kind of glory that Indian cricket currently rising to, people in no way can keep themselves silent from celebrating. Why not parents and kids become ambitious of representing in the much-acclaimed sports like cricket, it is obvious. But what has stopped people from accelerating the football culture too, is an unanswered question though.
Lack of necessary infrastructure perhaps the argument of some, for Indian football not rising to heights as expected. But tiny nations across the world have dashed through the history of football much stronger than huge economies have done. How many African nations are much ahead of India in terms of economy and facilities, is a question to be pondered anyways. It is high time that India discovers that skill which is lacking to draw near to the supreme glories of football.
All said and done one can’t keep away from the recent developments in football. The initiation of the Indian Super League (ISL) has brought a massive change to the game. ISL also becoming a sporting programme which is gaining watching action on television and other live-streaming platforms. Already social media has given ISL a big boost.
Not to forget, for any game to have its expected impact the media plays a great role. Therefore, to develop a football culture in India media houses as well as social media must play a vital role to garner more and more attention to the game and bring it into the spotlight. To be mentioned it’s being done already. According to a study, ISL has been ranked the fourth biggest football league on Instagram, only behind the likes of the Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga.
In 2022 ISL has also emerged as the second-most searched sports league in India, according to the top search engine Google. The league, which has already taken the scene by storm with some thrilling and edge-of-the-seat action on the pitch, featured in the top-10 searches on google in India amongst all categories, sixth in the overall sports category and second amongst all Indian sports leagues in the country after the Indian Premier League.
However, if India wants to witness a big stage in football Indian parents are the decision-makers for their children. Every initiative needs to shoot off from the grassroots. While working on the present incredible skills of football more and more young generations should be initiated.
Football in India also needs more role models like Sunil Chhetri that budding players can look up to and be a symbol of football in the country. Developing football culture in India is a collective effort involving developing fan culture, Grassroots development, Parent education, social media campaigns and more important a deep love for the game.