Jharkhand FC’s quest to gain supremacy and the barriers to overcome

Football has never enjoyed the popularity in India like cricket did over the years, but the inception of the Indian Super League has made a difference. The performance of the Indian National Football Team has also introduced a fresh wave of football in the country, which was evident from the sold-out match between India and Kenya in the ongoing Intercontinental Cup.

But to continue the steep rise, India needs to make sure that the development in the grassroots in being done in a fair way. The case of Jharkhand FC players’, who were victims to the darker side of the Indian football, will raise some eyebrows.

The players of Jharkhand FC were not allowed to participate in the trials conducted by the AIFF at the SAIL Football Academy in Bokaro Steel City.

The Academy was the organiser of the event and one of their officials Mr Subhash Rajak denied the players from taking the field. The concerned person said that the players needed to verify their documents from the District Association.

But the main catch lies somewhere else. Due to the absence of the secretary during the event, Mr Rajak was the top-most official over there being the joint secretary and had the authority to verify the documents, and guess what, he never did! The potential candidates missed out the opportunity to excel in their careers even before they stepped out inside the rectangle.

“As SAIL and Jharkhand FC are both from Bokaro, they cannot stand the growth of the club as we are set to compete in the 2nd Division I-League,” said a dejected Shivshankar, the coach of Jharkhand FC. “This kind of incidents demoralise the players and hampers the development of football,” he added while speaking to The Bridge.

The SAIL Football Academy has done pioneering work in promoting football since its inception. But the allegation against the top official will harm the reputation to some extent definitely. It is unfortunate to see an act on their part which will actually hinder the growth of football in India.

“The thing is that the SAIL Football Academy, which is running since 20-25 years, is reluctant to take Jharkhand FC players. From the past few years, just two-three players were selected for the academy. We are developing players from Jharkhand, the lion’s share of our players is from Jharkhand, but they are not getting the opportunity,” admitted Rashmi Srivastav, the director of Jharkhand FC.

We might have taken the ‘let’s football’ caption seriously, but we do have to peep into the cons which exist at the state and district levels. If there is constant feud among the academies and various clubs, it will be an impossible task to pick out best of the lot from the particular region.

On the other hand, he (Mr Rajak) allowed players from others state but never allowed Jharkhand FC players who mainly came from tribal backgrounds of the state. To break us, SAIL took just took two of our players in their squad this year and without any NOC. We had all the relevant documents, but they took two of players to break the morale of the club,” addressed the coach.

Jharkhand FC is a team which boasts of its local players, showing great potential in the years and also gearing up to participate in the 2nd Division I-League. They are likely to use Bokaro’s SAIL stadium as their home ground during the League. The club will go through the AIFF Licensing Criteria, for which the management has already started work and are confident of fulfilling it.

Regarding the matter, he said, “We are preparing for the 2nd division since the last year; the process was delayed due to some problems with the Association and also due to the Under-17 World Cup which was held in India. Without any sponsors, we are having around 30 players from Jharkhand only.”

Jharkhand FC’s next target will be to perform well in the 2nd Division I-League. It will be an uphill task for them to top the league and qualify for the top tier considering the fact that the team does not have a sponsor. But they can draw some inspiration from Real Kashmir who made a cut to the I-League braving many difficulties through their entire journey!