Football in India has a long tradition and the number of supporters of the beautiful game is increasing rapidly! But the lack of professionalism and clash of egos has been always part of the game in India and it seems like history is once again repeating with all the talk about India coach Bob Houghton, the performance at the AFC Asian Cup 2011 and many other topics making the round.
My association with Indian football started in 1999, when I got to know my good colleague and friend Arunava Chaudhuri. Both of us had the vision and the desire to see Indian football taking the ladder to the top of the football world. The passion and love for the beautiful game opened us the door to the world of football – especially Indian football!
Our main goal was to help Indian football and to be actively involved in the development of the beautiful game on the sub-continent. We arranged training camps for Indian junior national teams, consulted clubs and federations, lectured about Indian football in international forums and exhibitions amongst many others. We even arranged a Memorandum of Understanding between the German Bundesliga and the AIFF, which had the aim to boost Indian football with expertise from one of the leading European leagues.
In 2002 Arunava and I organised a training camp for the India U17 national team at the famous Sports School in Hennef (Germany). The Indian team consisted of a bunch of talented youngsters, which included the likes of Indian Player of the Year 2010 Gouramangi Moirangthem Singh and keeper Subrata Pal. It makes me really proud to see “our boys” in the senior team nowadays and that they turned into integral players in the Team India set-up. Mangi recently told Deutsche Welle Radio at the sidelines of the AFC Asian Cup 2011 that the camp in 2002 was a very important chapter in his career. He even thanked Arunava and me in the interview and added that the former U17 squad gained a lot from the trip to Germany.
But what happened with all those efforts by us and many other lovers of the beautiful game, who had the vision of a rising nation with a huge potential in football? I always think about FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter talking about “India, the sleeping giant of world football”… Yes, India has the potential, but it seems like Indian football has always the consistency to tear down the fundaments of good efforts and visions!
The discussions about Indian national team coach Bob Houghton seem to be another chapter to the vicious cycle of Indian football. It is a real shock to me to see the way the AIFF and many fans judge Bob and his work with the Indian national team. Bob has done tremendous work in India and he was instrumental in the transformation of the national set-up.
Sadly many people don’t realise that Indian football is still in its infancy and that many things need to be changed till “big” achievements will be seen! Bob and his team started several efforts to change things to the right direction, although facing resistance from different circles. One could get the impression that unrealistic expectations within Indian football have made life difficult for anyone aiming to move things forward!
The Indian national team played the AFC Asian Cup after several decades and we played decent football against superior teams. The Indian team earned applause from the international football fraternity and media for their spirited performance in Qatar. But what happened back home in India…? Many preferred to blame the team for conceding “too many” goals against Australia, Bahrain and Korea Republic!
Looking back to these reactions in India, I keep on asking myself, if it would have been better to stay away from the AFC Asian Cup 2011 and rather we should have kept playing the SAFF Cup, Nehru Cup and AFC Challenge Cup against weaker teams and win these matches! Why should we take the challenge to advance to the next level with proper planning and execution…?
Indian football has dramatically lost the recognition we gained during the recent years on a global stage due to the proceedings in the last few weeks! I had the opportunity to talk to several members of the international media and football business recently and all of them were full of incomprehension on the discussions going on in the playhouse of Indian football.
Seeing all these developments and looking back to the experiences I made since 1999, one has to ask, if there is a future for Indian football! I have always supported and pleaded for the cause of Indian football, but I have also seen the rise and fall of the beautiful game in India with all the cockfights for so many times!
Is there a future for Indian football? Or is it just a waste of time and effort? Is the Indian football fraternity – federations, clubs, media and fans – willing to learn from the past and to take it forward properly? Or should we give up hope?
What do you think?