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India needs football, not fan ball

Image for representation only

There is no end as yet to the sleepless nights of football fans around the world. The armies of fans of Lionel Messi's Argentina, who won the cup in an unforgettably close-contested battle in the history of the World Cup, are waving from the outskirts of Rosario to the villages in little Kerala. The amazing passion and fan enthusiasm of Kerala and India, which filled the stadiums of Qatar where the game was held, received the appreciation of the Argentinian football team itself. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez highlighting the jubilation of millions of Messi-Argentina fans. It is doubtful whether there is any other country or countrymen where football fever is burning as much as India, even Kerala and West Bengal states, to buy tickets and fly to a foreign country to applaud in the galleries for their favorite team and if that is not possible, prepare a stage and celebrate at home. But when we come out of this frenzy, there is a looming question to be raised in India: are the Indian compatriots natives entitled to only this selfie celebration of foreigners' playground?

Prime Minister Modi made an exciting announcement the other day when the Qatar World Cup craze lit a flame in his heart: "Today the match being played in the Qatar final is between two foreign countries. But, I can say with assurance that we will be organising an event like the FIFA world cup in India and will cheer for the tricolor," he shared the message in Shillong, Meghalaya on Sunday. Reactions on social media prove that Indians responded to the Prime Minister's words with great enthusiasm. But if the enthusiasm of the Prime Minister's statement is sought in practice, it makes a pitiable story. The length of years that India has to go through to fulfil the standards of the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) to conduct an event like the World Cup can be understood from the experience of Qatar. If we check the status of the country in the international indices in various domains, it will certainly turn out to be an arduous exercise even to brush up the image of the country at the international level before expressing the desire for a great event like the World Cup.

Moreover, it is all fine to feel the desire for such a global festival. But shouldn't we ask what football potential the country has to go for it? Where does the country stand in football? After independence, how did the Indian football team, which was often in the highest form in Southeast Asia, gradually recede to its current miserable state? What happened to our famous playgrounds and tournaments? What about the distinguished club football tournaments? Why does football never sprout apart from cricket in the land of Hindi, which is supposed to hold the supremacy of the country? Governments are obliged to answer a hundred questions of the sort. India is at the 106th position in the global ranking of football. India has not even made it to the list from Asia in the World Cup qualifiers. The country's history of qualifying for the World Cup is the 1950 entry that was just because of the Asian representation. When countries like the Philippines and Myanmar, which were in the group at that time, withdrew due to their economic weakness, India got in. Still, the team didn't play. Attempts to qualify for an entry l began in 1986. All we had to boast of was a fourth place in the Helsinki Olympics and in Asian Games events we have won gold twice and bronze once.

Sports fans have been clamoring to get out of this low-profile situation for ages. The governments have always been keen to take over the sports stadiums to make political rallies without listening to that. The recent elections to the All India Football Federation last September are a good example. Former Indian captain Baichung Bhutia had revealed the story of BJP leader and former Indian goalkeeper Kalyan Chaubey having to camp at the place the day before the vote by a Union minister. There must be an effort to cleanse Indian football from such poor conditions and to develop football from the grassroots level, at least by following the example of the underdeveloped countries. All the government needs to do is to make up its mind, and the golden age of Indian football will surely dawn. If rulers do not bother to think about it, and get enamoured of just dreaming, the fate of Indians will be to continue the competition in 'fanball', not in football.

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TAGS:Narendra ModiFIFAFIFA WC 2022Indian fansIndia's wish to host World CupIndia's low ranking in footballQatar News
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