INDIAN FOOTBALL: A SOARING PASSION

The introduction of liberalization and globalization through the new economic policy of 1991 paved the way for a number of schemes to improve various sectors of the economy including sports. Being a fastest growing economy post-liberalization, India also faced severe criticism for its deteriorating sports performance until the recent Commonwealth Games and Olympics.

From the year 2008, our country has seen a special emphasis laid upon the inclusive growth, leading to an increased budgetary allocation for sports. An overhauling of a system is taking place with a focus on the developing sports right from village level to national level and professionalization of sports federation by the initiatives of Govt. of India.

The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has increased budgetary allocations for enriched operational excellence at national and international sporting events. Football has been seen as one of the most vibrant sports in India and is number 2 sport after cricket which is the result of many factors including strategic dialogue, investment, and planning around the promotion of the game. For instance, India ranked 4th in 1956 Olympics in Football and 165th in 2012 but in the recent times, India has improved its position by 78 ranks from 175 in 2015 to 97 in 2018 which is commendable in itself but there is a long way to go if India aspires to play FIFA world cup.

In the recent years, positive thing is that the majority of the investment in Indian Football has been developmental in nature rather than commercial, thereby benefitting Indian football at the grassroots level. Our Indian U-17 and senior football team are doing great. Indian team captain Sunil Chettri has become a prominent sports figure amongst youth who have been coming up to support him in the stadiums. India won the recent Intercontinental cup which also saw some phenomenal things like people turning up in huge numbers, a jam-packed stadium with people screaming and cheering for the national team with amazing support on the social space as well.

Today, the young talents who are aspiring to pursue football as a career are being supported by the parents like never before. The Indian football story has just begun with the participation of industry, the advent of global best practices and professionalization of sport. There are indeed roadblocks but there is a unified determination to overcome these challenges. Also, government machinery and the national sports federation have joined hands with industry to promote the beautiful game and there are genuine efforts from all ends for the long-term development of football-related initiatives as self-sustainable and revenue generating properties.

What’s needed to help Indian football is to realize its true potential by an investment in footballing infrastructure- both physical and technical, grassroots level coaching programs, and opportunities for aspiring footballers to gain exposure to quality training and competition. It is important that Indian football secures foreign investment- financial and technical- to aid the efforts of the Indian government, the AIFF and other private sector players committed to developing the game in this country. More domestic leagues and regional tournaments with at pan India level and increased media outreach will surely help in the overall development of the sport. A real progress will only come if we go ahead to show our support for the national football team in the stadiums and strengthen the domestic football structure.

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