Much like cricket is a religion in India, football too has a special place in this country. However, having a special place is not enough if you can’t make in it the big leagues. India has yet to make its breakthrough in football like it has done in cricket. Here are some of the reasons why our Indian football team hasn’t made it into European football leagues yet.
Making a move towards the European Leagues is quite hard for they are debatably the best in the world. To begin with, The absence of a decent platform at the basic level. Apart from the two academies, Tata Football Academy and the SAIL Football Academy, there is no proper coaching to properly groom the youngsters. The academies that do exist do have good coaches but they don’t amount to much without the basic technical staff. This is one of the main reasons behind India’s stunted growth in this sport.
Next, we have to poor maintenance of the football fields. Other than Salt Lake and Ambedkar stadium where the grass is well maintained and evenly cut, the turfs here are horrible to play on with their brown patches and uneven grass. This, in turn, causes injury to the players making them unable to play well. On the other hand, the top European clubs have well-maintained stadiums for their players that allow them to perform their best. So when Indian players go abroad to play, they are unable to adapt to their fields to perform well.
Thirdly, there is the lack of exchange programmes between India and the European clubs which could benefit us and give us the push we need to be on among the top teams in football. However, it is a suggestion that may not come true anytime soon due to lack of proper funding. The international exposure will bode well for our team and make us reach new heights, not to mention the coaches who can learn new techniques to help the players perform better.
And finally, the standard of I-League is not up to par with the European standards as the I League has not updated its system in over a decade despite being supported by corporate sponsors. The timing of the matches does not correspond with the climate of India. The humidity and the heat effects the players making them sluggish and easily exhausted. Furthermore, the foreign players in our team, apart from Toglay and Odafe, are not up to the mark and if we don’t start interacting with the best, we may never reach the goals we set for ourselves.
Up until now only 5 of our players have performed professionally in the European clubs, Sunil Chhetri and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu being among them. Chhetri had signed a three-year deal with the Mittal group co-owned club, Queens Park Rangers. But his transfer from Dempo to QPR delayed due to work permit issues, which appeared due to India not being among the world’s top 70 countries, a rule that has become extremely harsh today. A similar feat was met with Gurpreet.
Former India captain Renedy Singh said, “It’s so unfair to have a ranking issue. They need to look into the quality of players then national team ranking. It would help if talented players like Sunil [Chhetri] and others make it big.”
Although it is commendable of us to reach the 101st ranking from 173rd in India’s FIFA ranking, we still have a long way to go. It is not enough to be the 11th best team in Asia as we are still in the backwaters of football.