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India and the Cup June 17, 2006

Posted by Arnold in Arnold, Football WC.

I’m sure every Indian who’s been following the FIFA World Cup has at some point or the other stopped to ponder upon the woefulness of our very own football team. How is it that countries like Trinidad and Tobago or Angola can field a team while India can’t?  Let’s look at the possible reasons:

A. There is an anti-Indian propaganda in the football world and FIFA fixes matches to ensure that India doesn’t qualify.
B. The qualifying system is skewed in such a way that for a team to qualify from Asia it has to be much better than one than qualifies easily from a zone like the CONCACAF.
C. The Indian team isn’t as good as Angola.

Ignore the first option as a pitiful joke from my pitiful mind. Let’s look at the second option. FIFA’s aim with the current qualifying system obviously isn’t to have the top 32 football playing countries in world compete in the Finals. It wants to have the best teams subject to certain other geographical representation criteria. Is this fair? I think it is to an extent. If it weren’t there I’m sure we would have to scrap the name “World Cup” and call it the “Europe – South America Championship”.

However, equal representation to all zones obviously isn’t the way out either. Otherwise we’d have the World Cup turning into a farce with teams like Western Samoa qualifying from the Oceania zone. So we need a balance between getting the best teams and giving all the football zones a ‘fair’ representation. FIFA believes that their current qualifying system matches this criterion and hence it is in place. If you think it isn’t fair to India, spare a thought for countries from the South American zone. Uruguay and Colombia, far better teams than India, couldn’t make it out of that group.

Moving to option C. Is the Indian team good enough to play in the World Cup? I have grave personal doubts about this. Looking at the 32 teams in the tournament, I find it hard to pick even a single team that I feel India can beat unless the opponents play blindfolded. (I feel Brazil might beat India even with this restriction.)

I think a strong argument for my case can be made by looking at the clubs that these footballers play for. Even the apparent ‘whipping dogs’ of the World Cup have a fair number of players playing for European clubs. Most of them even have one or two that play for big clubs. (Think Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Dwight Yorke, Kolo Toure etc.) India, on the other hand, can boast of no such thing. Apart from Bhaichung Bhutia’s short spell at a practically unknown English club, no other names come to mind. This isn’t because Indians are so patriotic that they would choose to forsake the big money in Europe and play for a local club. They simply aren’t good enough.

Why aren’t Indian footballers good enough? One frequent complaint is lack of money and infrastructure in the sport. While I am under no delusion about the pitiful condition of sporting facilities in the country, I find it hard to believe that most of the African countries have it much better. They’re just better natural athletes (and probably with more natural talent too). You’d think India, with a population many times that of these smaller countries, would be able to find at least 11 men capable of taking them on. But where are they?

Football in India obviously loses out on popularity to cricket. But I think that’s more of an effect than a cause. You need some success in Indian football before you can hope for the sport to become popular here. Of course, as far as the foreseeable future is concerned, that is merely a vain hope.



1. jean - June 17, 2006

India can reach the qualifying round in the world cup, but I dont see one major corporate supporting the sports, let alone the government. Its a pity that only cricket is being sported, supported, sexed up whatever.

Let those wheels turn but, where is hockey. Its a sorry state.


2. anvesh kharbanda - June 19, 2006

there are many reasons for india being where it is today in – ranked 117th in the FIFA world rankings … unless football is encouraged at the grassroot level with young kids taking up the game and being coached by foreign coaches at academies like abroad , i see no hope … u have to start early … take the kids , train them , send them abroad …

3. Sinfully Pinstripe - June 20, 2006

Look, let’s stop the “They’re just better natural athletes (and probably with more natural talent too). ” arguments once and for all. They said in the 1970’s that Chinese men do not have it in their genes to be world champion sprinters. Well, anyone heard of Liu Xiang? All that natural athletes bit is hogwash.

Football-wise, India is not up there because there is no money in the game.

“take the kids , train them , send them abroad ” Who will? And why will they? Who will sponsor? Which company will be ready to sponsor something that might reap in benefits 50 years hence? The government? For what good? They’d rather invest in athletics, wouldn’t they? And get an Olympic gold or something. What’s the shot for getting 23 world class football players out from the wilderness anyway?

So just relax, get the popcorns out, and cheer for the team you are supporting.

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