With the recent exploits of the Indian U-16 team Football Team in the South Asian Football Federation cup, it seems that the future of Indian Football is finally looking golden. The team which has practiced against European clubs of an age group higher than theirs – and has had resounding victories, one in which they came from a deficit of 3 goals – all shows a lot of promise and potential.
But will it continue? Will the upward trend go on or will it be halted, as it has, many times in the past?
The Indian Super League has managed to do what the many leagues and National team matches have failed to do in the past – they garnered a lot of eyeballs to the sport within India, something which has been sorely lacking in the past. It got media attention to the sport – another thing which was necessary but sorely lacking. A lot of good work was done by the ISL in some ways, paving a foundation for the growth of the sport.
But that is all that it was. A foundation. It has to be built upon and nurtured if we truly want the sport to be taken as a serious option by the youth of our country, and for the standard of football in the country to match that of the European, South American, or even American leagues.
A lot of development at grass root level is essential. Investment in world class facilities, top level coaches, trainers, health and training systems is needed. The children need to be exposed to the latest training methods, developments and advances in the game, and learn from the best coaches and managers in the field.
With a lot of football turfs coming up in the major urban cities, many more people are taking to the game, which is a positive. But a lot has to be said about developing the stamina of our Indian players and the physical aspect of their game. For a team which usually practices the long-ball technique, fitness is a must, sadly a lot of times it has been noted that our players are easily bossed off the ball and their fitness drops by huge margins in the second half of games.
Over-reliance on a single talisman player is another flaw which has to be ironed out and a ‘keep fighting to the end’ attitude has to be ingrained in the players. Baby steps have been taken in the right direction in the past year, it is now up to the relevant organizations and those in the footballing fraternity to make sure that this development continues and will last the distance.
At the end of the day, the football market in India is huge, and a lot of the people in the country follow the major European leagues, so there is no reason why they won’t follow the National team and the local leagues – the only reason why it hasn’t happened yet is because of the relatively poor standard of football on display in recent years. Now with greater media attention, grass root level development, and more investment, it finally looks like Indian Football has a bright future.