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It’s very disappointing that the political leaders do not actually want the standard of Indian football to improve, they are just happy to consolidate their power in the governing body. - Kartick Sett, a former International The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) recently decided to exclude the Indian football men’ and women’s team from participating in the upcoming 2018 Jakarta Asian Games and the decision has created uproar inside the football fraternity. This will be the first time since the Hiroshima Asiad in 1994 that India is not going to be a part of the football event. “These people are failing to deliver; they do not want to improve the standard of football in India, they are just bothered about themselves. But the footballers who ready to sweat it out in the field for the nation are deprived of the opportunity,” said a disappointed Kartick Sett, who was a part of India’s national team at the 1982 Asian Games. Also read: The time Pele recognised the passion in Pannalal and Chaitali Chatterjee He added, “During our days, India was a force to reckon with in Asia and we played brilliantly in the 1982 Asian Games. I scored against Malaysia and China which were competitive teams back then. We actually eliminated China during that edition. But things have gone in the decline for Indian football as days past.” India won the Gold medal at the Asian Games in the 1951 New Delhi as well as in the 1962 edition which was held in Jakarta. India managed to defeat Iran in the Gold medal match in 1951 and South Korea in 1962 along with Japan in the group stage. Sadly, all the three nations qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, while India is striving hard to establish itself as a football powerhouse in Asia! Lack of motivation to bring out the best in the players has been the main fallacy in India’s case. “We do have talents lurking around in every corner of our country, but the governing bodies are reluctant to invest in the prospects. The political leaders are busy to cater to their personal interests and gain national fame. It’s very disappointing; sometimes I feel sad and express my feelings about the situation,” said a dejected Kartick Sett. India has shown substantial improvement in the FIFA rankings over the past few years under its coach Stephen Constantine but a lot more needs to be achieved. When the Englishman took over the team, the ‘Blue Tigers’ were placed at the 171st spot, but with a string of good performances they have climbed up to claim the 97th spot as per the latest FIFA rankings. The exclusion of the blue outfits from the 2018 Asian Games will definitely be a huge setback for them.
The Indian Super League is one of the few initiatives taken by India to popularise the game in India. It’s not that people in our country do not watch football, but the fact is that Indian football hasn’t been of top quality. European Leagues and clubs enjoy enormous following from the Indian sub-continent, but we have failed to produce a team which can reciprocate the same inside the rectangle. Kartick Sett feels that establishing camps of different age groups in each state can be the remedy to the lingering problem. Regarding the matter, he said,” Every state should have a residential camp from lower age groups like U-16, U-17, and U-18 considering the fact that the state governing body has enough financial backing to do so. It should be conducted in such a way that these players of different age groups will compete in the Nationals. If we do that, I have a feeling that India will get a handful of quality players.” Grass root development has been the main element in any successful footballing nation, and Germany is a prime example of how they benefited from the system over the years, finally winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. After a dismal result in both the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 Euro, German Football Association revamped their youth development system. As we approached the new millennium, 366 training centers were set up and around 1000 coaches were employed to make sure each and every budding talent are picked up and groomed properly. The new system reaped results within a few years as Germany reached the semi-final stage in each of the six major tournaments since the 2006 FIFA World Cup till they finally lifted the coveted trophy at the iconic Maracana Stadium four years ago. Midfielder Toni Kroos who played a pivoted role in their triumph is a product of their youth development system! India qualified for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup quite convincingly topping their group and is clubbed with hosts United Arab Emirates, Thailand and Bahrain in the marquee tournament. Although it’s a relatively easy group, the ‘Blue Tigers’ needs to be at the top of their game to qualify for the knockout stages. We need a few more players like Sunil Chhetri because he has an urge to steer the nation towards more glory in the future. He has great leadership skills and also performs like a captain. The other players of the Indian Football Team are also very promising ad we can expect good results in the upcoming 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
So many countries are playing nice football, but India having a population of more than 130 crores cannot produce 20-players which can compete at the International level.
Why are we not being able to improve in football? What is our problem? Don’t we have skilled footballers? Yes, we have. We have quality players in our country, but we do not have a proper roadmap to execute.