Sunday, June 20, 2010

Will India ever play in a Soccer Wold Cup?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

As the football fever grips the entire world, India isn’t aloof to it. The world’s biggest sporting event after the Olympics has the country completely painted in yellow, blue, red and possibly every colour in the spectrum. From Brazil to Argentina and Germany to England all these countries have their huge fan base following action following each and every moment of the action. We have a huge advantage following this event as there are no chances of heartbreaks.

Being in Calcutta, one of Indian football’s hubs gives the true picture of football worship in India. The city is all covered in blue and yellow as the city has been known to be worshippers of Latin American giants Brazil and Argentina. Calcutta’s favourite son Sourav Ganguly aka Dada seem to struggling with TRP ratings as Brazilian Kaka is the talk of the town.

The situation is such that suddenly the Indian sports lovers have shut their ears on the IPL controversy and the ongoing Asia Cup in which MS Dhoni and his men are sweating it out doesn’t seem there are too many eyeballs in India for them. Wonder if our cricketers are used to this? But a bigger question that continues to haunt is whether we will ever be able to cheer for our own team? Will we ever hear the Indian anthem as the FIFA World Cup?

Our dismal FIFA ranking of 133 doesn’t seem to be an encouraging sign for even the die hard Indian football fans. Still this is a remarkable improvement from the 166 we were about two years ago. This improvement is however nowhere close to getting us a World Cup berth. The competition gets tougher for India considering only four slots to the Asian countries which also includes Australia. This is far less compared to Europe which has 13 slots although European and Asian football aren’t comparable.

Many Indian fans may not be aware that India had almost made it to a World Cup. History has it that India has qualified for thev1950 World Cup. Four countries from Asia were invited to participate in the qualifiers. Burma, Philippines and Indonesia all withdrew, so India qualified automatically. India was placed in Group 3 with Sweden, Italy, and Paraguay. But their request to play barefoot was turned down by FIFA and they withdrew!

It is also quite well know FIFA is also desperate to get India into the event considering the huge support base it has and considering the fact that it is a rising super power having India out of the race is not in the commercial interest of football. The money involved in the IPL has shown how big a sporting market India can be. Along with China it holds one third of theoretical television audience in the world a fact which is hard to ignore.

What is India’s chance of qualifying for the event? Considering the playing standards quite bleak! But India can bid for the 2026 or 2030 World Cups as the bit for the 2014, 2018 and 2022 events has already been sealed. This will make India automatically qualify as South Africa did this season. For that to happen India has to host a few global sporting events. The coming Commonwealth Games will be a test and India is also planning to bid for the 2020 Olympics.

It might seem a distant dream but in 2026 and 2030 India will definitely be a global power to reckon with. Who knows our football standards might also improve by then if we could make the I League more competitive by involving more foreign players. A few years back nobody would have backed us at having a F1 driver by Narain Karthikeyan did something against the odds. India may one day realise it’s biggest football dream.


Shubhashish June 20, 2010 at 1:32 PM  

"It is possibly safe to say that for India to qualify in a world cup would be something like South Africa winning this world cup,the latter seeming quite impossible.The only way for India to improve its footballing status is to improve the standard of its league football which is very very poor as compared to the european countries.The lack of proper footballing facilities,for instance the absence of an international standard stadium only adds to India's miseries.And perhaps the lack of exposure of Indian players to the outside world.If India can overcome all these hurdles we might be able to see our nation playing in a world cup probably in the coming decades..........

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