Sol Campbell, the former England footballer, says India is possibly 50 to 100 years behind the world’s top football nations. That is true in some ways but a vast country like India can never be short of talent and it’s only a matter of time before India comes at par with the global standards with the right amount of exposure and planning post the recently concluded world cup.
The Indian team may not have won medals but the youngsters have won the hearts of everyone, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said about the FIFA Under-17 World Cup which ended on 28th October in Kolkata. The month long tournament has certainly displayed India’s ability to host a tournament of this magnitude with quite a lot of success as well. “The World Cup was hosted successfully and all the teams displayed their best talent. India may not have won the Cup but the Indian youngsters have won the hearts of everyone.” Mr. Modi said. Keeping in mind that the Indian Colts did manage to put up a spirited display against top notch opponents, it seems like Indian football is atleast heading in the right direction.
There’s a belief that this group of players will improve with time and become competitive against at least Asia’s elite in the senior age-group matches. But being realistic, it’s unlikely to happen only because the exposure the foreign players get growing up is way more than their Indian counterparts. Past experience has shown that when India’s junior football teams graduate to the senior level, they don’t improve at a significant rate. Their junior counterparts from elite football countries learn much better skills in much lesser time. The gap between them only increases. The only fix for this is long term as the domestic football abroad is very competitive, with top-class coaching, medical facilities, sports science backing and a passionate fan base.
This shall only lay the groundwork for a larger fix which has to come gradually and anyone expecting miracles straight away needs to break out of the bubble. The successful U-17 World Cup has given the initial push and as fans it is our duty to keep that passion and momentum intact even after the world bids farewell to India.