Sunday, July 02, 2006

Why aren't we there in Germany?

When some stupid IBN columnists wonder how India's cricket tour of WI can be overshadowed by Football, I can only laugh. Who would bother to watch fifteen days of useless cricket amidst a football extravaganza and Federer at Wimbledon? As the football world cup reaches the crescendo, its time to ask why India aren’t there in Germany. I guess we deserve a better answer than 'dude, we are ranked 100+' or 'in India cricket is religion'.

All the traditional answers for India's pathetic state in sports barring Cricket don't apply to Football. (ok alright we will use this Cricket exception until we lose a test series to Nepal!) If media spotlight is any criteria, Football can give Cricket a good run for its money. It’s probable that there are more Football days in Indian TV than Cricket. Indian Industry is already entrenched in Football. The national league is Tata NFL, Mallaya owns East Bengal and Mohan Bagan, Mahindra United are the current NFL champions and there are JCTs, Salgaonkars and more. As for crowd support, it’s true that Manchester United is more familiar than a Mahindra United, but people have died when fans celebrate in the Kolkata city leagues!

Indian football has had only foreign coaches for decades and the current one took China to World cup in 2002. We even got a freak qualification to 1950 world cup only to be barred for playing barefoot! Even Priyaranjan Das Munshi who runs AIFF is not entirely stupid. Given all this why do we cut such a sorry figure? How many of us are even aware that India does play world cup qualifiers and that Japan thrashed India 6-1 on their way to Germany. How many of us can name any Indian footballer other than Bhutia and Vijayan? How long will we be rejoicing others football?

I can guess two reasons for this pathetic state. Football in India is patronized mostly in Bengal and Kerala (the states least known for entrepreneurship) and by the likes of Goa, Sikkim and other NE states (who are in perpetual political/economic paralysis). We don't have a Gujarat or Maharashtra or Tamilnadu/Karnataka/Punjab getting involved. These states have the wherewithal to support the clubs, academies and schools, but aren't very keen yet. Remember Cricket in India might not have been what it is without the Gujarathis and the Mumbaikars. The other reason could be the profile of the players. Muslims and the Sikhs, who are physically the strongest aren't very much into Football yet. (They make up more than half of our cricket team). Besides the average football fan in India's metros is still the one whose only sport is to play chucking cricket with Tennis balls! It will be a while before guys in the gully-mohallahs of Vadodara and UP start kicking football for fun. We shall have to wait.

7 comments:

sachin said...

Football is not popular because Indians suck at it and Indians suck at football because a majority of the people care about cricket. Here's a link to the discussion that was carried out on someone's blog site:
http://tinyurl.com/qavbr

Balaji said...

Sachin,

Well, I guess it is these generalities like 'Indians suck at it' and 'people care about cricket' that I wanted to dispute. Anyway I have responded to your comments here too.

Balaji.

sachin said...

Balaji,

I posted my response on the same site.

"Well, I guess it is these generalities like 'Indians suck at it' and 'people care about cricket' that I wanted to dispute. "

That can't be helped. If Indians perform well at the international level, people will automatically start developing more interest in the sport in general and the Indian soccer team in particular. Even one WC appearance can change things dramatically. The biggest challange for AIFF is to find 11 talented players and provide them with world class training facilities and a world class coach. That's where corporate sponsorship becomes important. The shortcut is to offer all these foreign players in Indian leagues Indian citizenship etc.

Sriram Srinivasan said...

Football in India is patronized mostly in Bengal and Kerala ... We don't have a Gujarat or Maharashtra or amilnadu/Karnataka/Punjab getting involved." That's a very interesting point Balaji, and worthy of thorough research.

GuNs said...

I've written a number of posts connected to football now. There is a lot of football that happens in Pune. Local clubs are aplenty. The problem is that there aren't too many world class grounds where you can have a real idea of how the ball moves and what are the speeds and angles and elevation needed for the passes and the shoots. These local players graduate on to national clubs and till that time, the quality of grounds is persistent. When it comes to qualifiers, suddenly its a different ball game.

Your point about the larger states not getting into football is correct upto an extent. I dont see football promoted as widely in Maharashtra as it is in Goa, for instance.

I think with the amount of exposure football is getting these days, it wont be long before football gets its due share of coverage. You might notice that currently, you NEVER hear anything about our national clubs in the news on TV. We hear everything about our cricketers and international footballers but I've only seen one interview of Bhutia in all these years.

-PeAcE
--WiTh
---GuNs

sachin said...

Had Bhaichung been playing for AC Milan or Juventus (please overlook any spelling mistakes - I'm not very familiar with the teams), things would have been different.

Also, I don't think it should be a problem that football is not patronized in many of the major states. I'm sure, if we look hard enough, we can find 20 extremely talented players in Bengal and Goa. Balaji, you talked about the national team having a foreign coach. Do you know how good the individual team (Mohan Bagan, East Bengal, etc.) coaches are? Also, what about TCF?

Anonymous said...

"Why aren't we there in Germany?"

Why don't we win more than one medal at the Olympics?

Why haven't we won a cricket world cup in 23 years?

Why do we have no one after Vishwanathan Anand?

Why is it that India hasn't dominated any sport the way we dominated hockey in the 40s?

Some more questions.