Why is India still struggling to qualify FIFA World Cup
Whenever FIFA World Cup begins, Indians start cheering for the game, but if you ask people the name of some of our greatest players who left a mark on Indian Football history, most of them would never able to answer. The same people can give a speech about a European Club’s entire history with its players’ name and records, but it’s difficult for them to answer the name of the captain before Bhaichung Bhutia. We can’t blame them alone for this reason as they are the audience and we can’t force them to cheer for our national team as it is still struggling to make a mark on the international platform. But thanks to the social media and players like Bhutia, Chhetri and other celebrities who are coming forward and doing their best to promote this game and we expect, this will make a significant impact though it’s slow still we are hopeful. However, the question arises why our national team is failed to qualify in the most popular tournament on a regular basis? Can’t we produce 15 best players out of 1.3 billion populations? No doubt we have plenty of raw talents who can give tough challenges to players like Messi and Ronaldo and ranking of Sunil Chhetri proves it already. Then what is the reason for the bad performance? Here are the reasons why is India still struggling to qualify FIFA World Cup?
Love for a single sports
The article’s intention is not against any game, and in fact, I personally support every sport as it’s a part of physical activities and the best way is to become fit. However, it seems that we Indians are obsessed with cricket as if there is nothing next. The obsession is not a singular problem instead we can say it’s a social problem, where everyone is responsible, from the media to celebrities and sports associations and even the government. We are not saying that government is ignorant; they may be or may not be that is a different story. The problem is we can’t blame a single group for this reason alone.
Back to the case of football, the situation is worst, where it is weird for most of the people to play this game instead of cricket. Just roam around any playground, you hardly found anyone is playing football except some governmental sports organizations that sponsor this game. The only time we are lucky enough to see the sports is during the rainy season, and after that, people never imagine it in their dream. However, the Indian Super League and popularity of European League give some exposure to it, still not impressive. Our people watch English Premier League often than ISL. Thankfully the recent efforts made by Sunil Chhetri encouraged our people, and we hope his efforts will bring some change, and this societal issue will fade away slowly.
If you want to find the biggest reason for the failure of the national team, then it’s none other than the All India Football Federation (AIFF) itself who is failed to take significant steps for the development. Even though sports are all about passion still, players need to get paid well which seems to be difficult for our talents. Though ISL gives some relief but not enough as the main organization is unable to fix the ground problems. Seven professional clubs stepped back as there is no sustainable revenue system and AIFF doesn’t do anything to promote it. Even those seven clubs created a separate league (I-League) after stepping back but the outcome is not impressive, and they are on a negotiation phase with ISL. By seeing the current situation, it is clear that without a reformation like BCCI, the development of football will be a daydream forever. It is impossible without the improvement of the quality of the sports and interest of people which doesn’t seem to happen. Even though it’s a sports organization, still they have to look from the business perspective and without a profitable revenue model and marketing system nothing will happen. In case you forget, the wealthiest sports organization BCCI was once struggling for money during 1983 Cricket World Cup. Still, the players won the trophy, and there is no look back after that. Take a look at Japan, where football was not even a sport for most of the Japanese before 20 years, but Japan Football Association’s constant efforts gave the result, and they became a prominent face in Asian football.
It’s hard to believe that India once defeated France in 1948 Olympic with 2-1 goals in barefoot and their performance impressed the royal families. Just after two years they qualified for the World Cup but refused to join as they didn’t have any idea about Brazil though some say they didn’t know the use of shoes. Whatever the reason, the team we had 70 years ago was far better than the current though we should not have any doubt about our players as they are doing their best. The bitter truth is, they won’t able to achieve the dream to play in the world cup unless AIFF starts working on the ground level. It’s not surprising that Sepp Blatter once said, “India is the sleeping giant of football” because we already proved it 70 years ago without proper resources.
Cover Image: Mariya Butd