Indian Football: 58 Years and a Nation Struggles to Rise
They need motivation...but where does it come from? It comes if we, the fans, loyally follow our national team's progress through wins and losses, through ups and downs...just the way we follow cricket.
Imagine, we have the third-oldest football tournament in the world, the Durand Cup. The oldest is the FA Cup, and the second-oldest is the Scottish FA Cup.
However, have the seeds been sown? With India securing a place in the AFC Asian Championship, Asia's equivalent of the Euros, will we see a resurgence in the number of football fans in the country?
I mean, we have no lack of supporters for United, Arsenal and Chelsea? However, when the national team plays, we see empty stands. Why is this?
Then again, perhaps it has nothing to do with football at all. What do I mean? Allow me to explain, please. As most of us in the subcontinent and other cricketing nations know, cricket is a religion in India, and cricketers are gods. No two ways about it.
However, when the local state teams play in what is called Ranji Trophy, India's equivalent of the County Championships, how many ardent viewers do we have, glued to the TVs, going to see the games? Not many. However, let the national team take to stage, the atmosphere is festive and at times chaotic.
I used to live in Sheffield till the end of June, 2007, around the corner from Bramall Lane. I still remember when Sheffield United were relegated; I was sitting in a pub across the stadium, with my friends.
The final whistle blew, and when the people were coming out, I could see 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds crying because the Blades were relegated, their fathers convincing them that another day will come when they will be back in the premiership.
Though I was not a Blades follower, those scenes moved my heart...trust me...that's passion...that's following...that's loyalty...that's what we need to develop in ourselves...
I mean, for people here, football is not about a World Cup or a once-in-four-years feast; it's week-in, week-out passion....That's what we need; that's how we need to start...we have to start somewhere...in India, football needs to be given its due status.
I am attributing this to what we called situational patriotism. We Indians, as a nation, are only ready to back our success stories. We are not ready to resurrect our fallen angels.
"If you are a loser, sod off; if you are a winner, our doors are open," is what our message is to sporting teams.
What needs to change here is the attitude and mentality of our people. A billion people and not being able to produce a reasonably good football team is a shame, and I am not ashamed to admit it.
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