Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Some cheers for Indian Football

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

It is very rare that there is anything to cheer about Indian football but on Monday Indian football fans got something to celebrate when India grabbed the Nehru Cup for the second time in a row by defeating Syria 6-5 in a penalty shoot-out. India's Goal keeper Subrata Paul turned out to be the hero as as outstandingly blocked three shots to the post giving India a much deserved victory in a nail-biting game.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) announced cash awards for the Indian football team after the match. AIFF president Praful Patel said he would personally give a cash award of Rs.500,000 each to skipper Bhaichung Bhutia and goalkeeper Subrata Paul, whose brilliant saves in the tie-breaker won the match for India. All other members of the team and the support staff will get Rs.200,000 each. Not bad for players who aren't even provided air tickets during domestic events by the federation.

It is only when we win a tournament that we want to reward (read lure) our players with money and in normal times we don't even care to know about them. The situation is such that most of us know everything about the Cristiano Ronaldos, the Frank Lampards, the Rio Ferdinands and the Wayne Rooneys but wonder who Subrata Paul, Sunil Chetri, Clifford Miranda and Syed Rahim Nabi are. For most of us Indian football starts with a name Baichung Bhutia and unfortunately ends with it as well.

Before the federation and country gets carried away with the win introspection is required on the poor state of world's most popular game in India. Question needs to be asked is why the state of Indian football so pathetic? Why is it that out FIFA ranking stands at a dismal 156 with countries like Sri Lanka and Fiji ahead of us? Why is it that after having foreign coaches and training we haven't been able to preform beyond the Nehru Cups.

The state of Indian football can be guessed very well from the fact that the former President of All India Football Federation Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi wasn't willing to let go off the post even though he could not even stand for the Lok Sabha Polls due to his ill health. He found solace once the post of the President was taken by a fellow politician Praful Patel. As if Patel doesn't have enough worries with Air India and the Maharashtra elections, how on earth will he find time to look in the state of affairs of Indian football.

This is nothing to do with a Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi or a Praful Patel alone but a system in which politicians and bureaucrats consider holding such positions as a best option to remain in limelight after their retirement from active careers. These people slam Cricket and the BCCI for all their misfortunes but never learn from it. To cite an example Premier Hockey League kicked off three years before the IPL but how many fans has it generated? Is cricket to be blamed here too?

Most of the sports federations blame cricket for all their woes. However they fail to learn from a sports governing body which makes money without the government doing any charity towards it. The reason is professional manner in which BCCI is run. Sport bodies like AIFF, Hockey India, IAF, BFI should take cue from BCCI about improving the standard of the game rather than blaming it. One Nehru Cup is good but we have a long way to go.


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