, pub-6758312094382028, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0
19.2 C
New York

The Sorry Transition of Indian Football



Football in India is almost like cricket in other parts of the world. People may or may not be aware of it and only a certain section of the population shows minimal interest.

Indian football, history of indian football, indian football team
Indian football team players making their way to the ground to play against France in the 1948 Olympics. (Image: Twitter)

Kolkata: Football in India is almost like cricket in other parts of the world. People may or may not be aware of it and only a certain section of the population shows minimal interest. A country where cricket is worshipped as a religion, it is quite obvious that other sports will have a backseat and to an extent might head towards oblivion. But it wasn’t always the case in the tri-color nation. Football along with hockey were the more popular games and there was a time, India produced quality footballers that rubbed shoulders, man-to-man, eye-to-eye against some of the finest in Asia and in the world.

The 50s and 60s, we football fans have heard time and again that very period was the Golden Age of Indian football. That was the time, when Indian football peaked to it’s potential. Late journalist and football commentator Novy Kapadia once said that India earned the title of ‘Brazil of Asia’ and almost reached European standards and played with a formation (4-2-4) that was used long before the Brazilians made it cool. This was India at it’s very best.

The victorious Indian team of 1951 Asian Games. (Image: MB E-Library)

India’s best coach was perhaps the great Syed Abdul Rahim, lovingly called Rahim Saab by his players and peers. This man changed the entire structure of Indian football and brought in a revolution that no one could replicate even today.

Rahim Saab’s vision of the game was top notch despite of not having any prior course in coaching. He played only at club level and was also a school teacher by profession. He nurtured some of the legends of Indian football like PK Banerjee, Chuni Goswami, Sailen Manna, Jarnail Singh, Tulsidas Balaram, Yusuf Khan, Peter Thangaraj and the list goes on. He not only stressed on aggressive physical training, he also emphasized equally on individual development and infused a team chemistry like never before. His style of play have earned India two gold medals in 1951 and 1962 Asian Games. In 1951, India won it on home soil and in 62’, they did it in front of a capacity hostile crowd in Indonesia. India could’ve also played the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. There is an old story that the then newly formed nation didn’t get the permission to play on barefoot and so they never went to play the tournament. But the truth is, the officials of the Indian football federation gave more importance to the Olympics and they thought the money should be invested on the 1952 Helsinki Olympics rather than a World Cup that is only 4 editions old.

The winning squad of 1962 Asian Games with Rahim Saab in the middle. (Image: Twitter)

The team, who almost got the better of a strong French side in 1948 playing barefoot, was stripped off a glorious opportunity to play at a tournament which will go on to hold more importance than the Olympics in the future. This casual behavior of the management is still relevant even today.

Speaking of Olympics, 1956 was the year India scripted history. They finished 4th in the Olympics and defeated an Australian team on their home soil, which is beyond imagination in today’s times.

Moving forward to the 70s, India jointly clinched the Junior Asian Championship with Iran. That trophy is India’s only AFC major trophy across all senior levels. The senior side finished runners-up in 1964 but since then, they didn’t even manage to qualify beyond the group stages at any Asian Cup they played.

From the mid 70s, the downfall started for Indian football. This is the time cricket got popularity and in 1983, the sport in India reached new heights as they became the first Asian country to lift the coveted trophy. The World Cup triumph entirely changed the whole dimension of the sports culture in the country and every little child wanted to represent India in cricket. The money and investors came thick and fast for only one sport and when you coupled it with glitz and glamour of Bollywood, it is bound to become a huge hit and eventually with generations to come, it will become an emotion. But we all know, if it’s a gain for someone, there would be a big loss for another. Football and hockey both got ignored and when you ignore, you just can never progress and it is still relevant today.

India were the joint-winners with Iran at the 1974 AFC Youth Championships. (Image: Twitter)

Despite of having one of the oldest football cultures and some of the oldest football clubs in the world, India just couldn’t cling to their old traditions. The Durand Cup, IFA Shield, Mohun Bagan-East Bengal rivalry all were pushed aside.

The football culture is currently prevalent only in West Bengal, North-East, Kerala and Goa. If we look at the earlier days, even Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai had their fair share of contribution to Indian Football. But now football in those parts is close to extinct and with advent of European football, a large section of the Indian people shows passion for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United. During the World Cups, people come down to the streets in numbers to watch a match screening between Argentina and Brazil or a France or Portugal. People nowadays will give their life for foreign football but won’t waste time on the so-called poor quality game of the Indians.

During Rahim Saab’s time, he introduced age-level football before it came into existence. Back home in Hyderabad, he introduced football tournaments where footballers can use only their weaker foot. Another tournament saw, where dribbling was strictly prohibited and the players can only pass or cross. This was the vision of a man during a time when India had to deal with economic recession, illiteracy and basic amenities after the colonial rule. It’s a big failure for us that we couldn’t produce revolutionary coaches like Syed Abdul Rahim. No one came up with a plan that could revive Indian football back to it’s glory days.

As of now with the introduction of the Indian Super League, India have shown considerable signs of improvement. The age level teams have competed in World Cups and have done quite well in that respective age group but when they reach the senior stage, the result is pretty much the same what we are witnessing for the last 43 years. The lack of competitiveness stopped our overall development. India used to play 70 minutes of football before and this affected a lot in the current generation. It was manageable then but things change with time and the needful needs to be done. This is similar to hockey. India once played on natural turf and since then FIH introduced the artificial ones, they were never the same again.

The domestic league structure is very wrong as India indulge on a 4 to 5 months football season and on the other hand, the world literally plays for 9-10 months of football. Getting foreign exposure is fine and all but we Indians should literally need to rely less on overseas recruits. As of now we are playing with four slots and it should be reduced to three for our benefit. The more we get our chances, the more we will excel.

The journey of the Sleeping Giant to become a World Giant is tough and might take generations. The country of 1.4 billion did it before and they still possess the ability to bring back their glory days.

Source link

Related articles

Recent articles

Verified by MonsterInsights