I'm of Indian origin even though I was born and brought up in Bahrain, a tiny country nestled in the Arabian Gulf. And growing up as a sport loving Indian has had its trials and tragedies, from the youth system all the way up to international sporting events.
India has traditionally been, and continues to be, an underachiever on the world stage, churning out dismal performances at the Olympics and various World Cups in different sports.
In soccer it fares worse than countries like Uzbekistan and Bahrain!
Why this is happening in a population that has a pool of over a billion to choose from is beyond most people.
But not me.
The fact is simple—India is bogged down by red tape and an uncaring population that has been dilated with cricket and field hockey, while keeping ancient protocols within an aged governing body that is comprised of a bunch of big headed farts that know everything about the scent of a rupee but not the soccer pitch.
And it pisses me off.
Why? Because a country like India with its majority well-off middle class population and enough money to buy Belgium just does not care about sports. Yes, we give a damn about cricket, but in India, cricket is not a sport, it's a religion with cricketing "gods" like Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar worshipped on a daily basis.
India losing in a cricket World Cup causes mass riots. India not qualifying for the FIFA World Cup causes... well nothing.
Currently, according to FIFA rankings, Argentina plays the best football on this side of the galaxy. India on the other hand, has a better chance of getting the first elephant into space than winning a soccer game, sitting rather too comfortably in the 154th position, below a war torn Iraq (70th), a no name squad in a poor country like Botswana (113th) and way below one of their greatest cricketing rivals, Australia (43rd).
Within the Asian zone, the Indians don't even figure in the top ten!
In fact, the Indians could learn a lot from the Aussies, since both nations pride themselves on their ego. The difference is the Australians strive to do well on the sporting field, simply because this unites the country behind a common ground and gives Aussies everywhere a chance to brag about something other than politics and money.
Excelling at sports is something the Aussies tend to whip themselves towards.
India has had its fair share of talent, and I am grouchy because I've played soccer during my brief vacations to Goa a (south-western province in India) with some players that could make Cristiano Ronaldo look like a school girl. I'm as honest as can be when I say that.
Goa has some of the best flair soccer players in India, and our state provides the nation with some amazing teams from Churchill Brothers to Dempo, and I can safely say that we have some truly amazing talent coming up through the ranks.
Only to dilute down to waste due to some rather abject administration. The few that make it obviously move abroad to the Arabian leagues to make better money and the few amazing talents make it as far as Europe.
Baichung Bhutia made it all the way to Bury [after being courted by Fulham and Aston Villa] and he improved his game a lot, moving back to Mohun Bagan, the Manchester United of Indian soccer.
Michael Chopra anyone? (On a side note, Chopra was born and brought up in England and never actually played in India.)
With its huge coffers of cash that is spent in the name of sport, it is an amazing feat of misgoverning that any natural talent found is not nurtured and developed let alone encouraged to maximize potential.
We have absurd policies (basing selection on popularity and personal favours rather than talent) and rather biased selection processes that are geared to feting the popular teams and persona.
Our coaches are garbage, we even still employ the 4-2-4, something that hasn't been seen since the 1962 World Cup!
While other nations continue to develop wide ranging and extensive sport education academies and school curriculum's, we are stuck doing stupid drills and ineffective cardio workouts that would make the Teletubbies laugh out loud.
Well I for one am not laughing!
Match-fixing and cheating is rife and incompetence and lethargic governing has given way to an even worse failure as the years go by. Soccer pitches are poorly managed, soccer teams are not adequately financed and don't even get me started on availability of equipment.
Huge crowds and support in states like Bengal and Goa have not been converted throughout the nation and has not been transplanted into a progressive development system. Everything about soccer in this country screams amateur.
And what's even worse, anything remotely encouraging is greeted with cynicism, ageism and cronyism. Indian soccer continues to wallow in its pig-pen of suck-ism.
Much can be done. India is NOT poor on the monetary front but the people in charge of the sport in the country need to rally the troops and advance the beautiful game.
As far as soccer goes, India is an ugly duckling being left behind and these are sad times indeed.