Ever since the Indian economy opened up in the early ’90s, sport has become a lucrative industry. In recent years, every international sportsperson or official visiting India has said that this is the place to play, and that the scope for every sport in the country is vast. Of course, what they really mean is that this is the El Dorado of sport, with wide audiences and a huge amount of money. Now, the ever increasing number of cash-rich leagues is only proving the point, attracting athletes from all over the world, with the two month football bonanza of the Indian Super League being a particular highlight. The influx of money and attention on football has grabbed many eyeballs and today, the sport is receiving much more attention than any other time in the last few decades.
But is football truly the future of sports in India? Well, here are some points which seem to denote that it may well be so:
Earlier, the only football league of the country had been the I-League. It did not receive a lot of media attention, and the number of spectators at every game were barely a handful – barring the North East where huge crowds were routinely drawn to the games.
Though ISL has some issues, it has still managed to perform the major role of drawing attention to football as a viable sport. It has brought in ex-international footballers as coaches and players. All of this has culminated in drawing a huge number of viewers to the games not only through the avenue of television, but on the actual grounds throughout the country. As the league progresses and its flaws are ironed out, and once it hopefully merges with the I-League, the standard of football will increase even further, and draw in even larger crowds.
Grassroots Level Programs
The ISL teams have begun developing Grassroots level programs to spot and develop local talents for their teams, and of course for the Indian Football team. These programs are in their nascent stage and will only become better over time.
The U-17 FIFA World Cup in India
The U-17 FIFA World Cup which is going to be hosted by India is an opportunity for the country to develop its football grounds and stadium facilities to a world class level. And hosting the best young footballers from all over the planet provides a good chance for all the football aficionados here to catch them live in action; an opportunity like never before.
P.S. – Being the host country, India have automatically qualified for the tournament. Thus, we are in a major international tournament for the first time, even if it is at youth level, and is a good opportunity for the youth team to show their skills on the greatest stage of them all and impress the scouts who are surely going to be in attendance.
Recent Performances of the India U-16 Team
The current Indian football team may not be the best in the world, but India’s U-16 team has been on a streak like never before, winning almost all their games against international opponents – some of them by wide margins. This bodes well for the future, and if properly nurtured, this could well be the Golden Generation of Indian Football.
All of these points herald a new beginning in the story of Indian Football. A story which may finally be taking a turn for the better, on the brink of something special.