Do Indian Footballers lack the fitness to play against top teams?

Time and again when the world cup qualifiers begin, there is an abundance of cheer and hope among the Indian people that maybe this time their National team will qualify for football’s greatest tournament, and each time it turns out to be a false hope as the team fails to make the cut. Indeed, this year there were talks that after a successful Indian Super League (ISL) season wherein the local lads had rubbed shoulders with international stars, the quality of Indian football would rise and we would make a serious bid for qualifying to the world cup. Once again, it has turned out to be a false dawn, and the Indian football team instead of having a resurgence, has actually fallen down the rankings since the start of 2015.


What could be the reason for this no show? Do the Indian footballers lack the fitness to compete against the world’s best teams? Do they lack the game sense and footballing know-how? Or are these just symptoms of a much more insidious issue?

There is no simple or easy answer to this, but it is probably a combination of all of these factors. In 2009-10, when the Bayern Munich U-19 team came to play some friendlies in Kolkate and participate in the IFA shield, there was one promising starlet playing in their team, one who has gone on to become a household name now – Thomas Muller. After the tournament when quizzed about the nature of their opponents, the teenager had replied in all seriousness that East Bengal could only qualify for the Bundesliga’s fifth division.

For those who thought that the ISL was a panacea to all of India’s footballing woes, the current international fixtures and defeats against Guam and Iran may have been like slices of humble pie. India’s number 9 is Robin Singh, a 6’ 1” striker, and yet he had a tough time winning the ball against comparatively shorter opponents. After all, size isn’t everything. Timing is important as well. The technical know-how and footballing sense to use your body to its optimum level is one concept which most of the Indian lads, and even the training staff, has been unable to grasp.

Indeed, most of our players barring Chhetri were easily shrugged of the ball. The long ball technique which the team uses has been found wanting time and again, with our players lacking the physicality and sheer power needed to battle against the best players in the world. Fitness is a major problem here. Stamina is another. The previous coach tried to get the team to play a tika-taka style of football, but the sheer concentration and utter running stamina required to utilize that system to its fullest was once again found wanting. Right now the Indian football team is caught between two ends of the spectrum. Not adept at the tika-take, neither are they adept at the long ball technique, their fitness and stamina continuously letting them down in the former style of play. It is almost impossible to imagine a Eugeneson Lygdoh going head to head against a Yaya Toure, or a Jeje Lalpekhlua trying to shimmy past a John Terry, let alone a Sergio Ramos.

Until we have world class training facilities, better trainers and staff who concentrate on every aspect of the players health, from diet to training regime, we will keep on being pushed around by stronger, fiercer, opponents.

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  1. In my honest opinion, yes! Indian footballers fail to achieve the level of fitness and the temperament to play the top teams in different tournaments. I would not blame the players for this shortcoming but the politics involved in the administration. Lack of efficient coaches, will power of the administrators and similar poor habits are deteriorating the status of Indian football and the footballers. It will be highly appreciated that the citizens of the country and the government step ahead to remake the fortune of Indian football.


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