Representatives from the All India Football Federation were in Dubai last weekend floating a plan in an attempt to garner investment in its league system from the huge Indian Diaspora that exists here. This if successful would make way for two new clubs to be added to the already suffering I-league in the coming season and accounting towards the growth of the sport in the country. But so far it looks as if it would only be an insignificant improvement.
Popular dissatisfaction with the way AIFF works has built slowly as the national team has not been able to move out of their fluctuating 100 – 200 FIFA ranking for decades now. And it’s dawned on the fans that this has become an underlying truth of non-existent progress of Indian football. The issue goes back to the point where in knowledgeable people have been ignored and spoilt bureaucrats are given the opportunity to lead. And now when you see the likes of Praful Patel leading the AIFF, critics heaved up moral, legal and practical objections. Among them being that: he runs the largest beedi (an Indian cigarette with tobacco flakes in them) maker in India; he is the Cabinet Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises in the Indian government; and has been embroiled in various corruption cases both, internally and abroad.
Right now, Praful Patel and AIFF handle all things football in India and that is the truth. In premise, football might just progress if the leader was a more football oriented person, which would call for more flexibility in terms of transparency than where AIFF is today. This does not signify that an established leader cannot enter the football or sports market without any knowledge; it’s just that it cannot happen in India.
Yes, it is known that the youth of the country today are more inclined towards watching football than cricket but it tends to be the more prestigious European leagues. But since FIFA’s goal campaign in 2001, which aimed at investing in the youth, not a lot has come out of it. It’s embarrassing that the AIFF has not been able to tap into the billion people that exist in the country and abroad (players of Indian origin).
The biggest obstacle to change is that the AIFF does not see Indians residing abroad as playing any role other than fund their failed initiatives. But in an interview with The National, Kushal Das, general secretary of the AIFF, failed to acknowledge any aspect of it. It could be the very fact that the idea has not yet hit their sweet spots.
Talent in the form of PIO’s exists in the Middle East, apart from those in other corners of the earth. It needs to be approached because there is no easy way for them to approach the AIFF. The website currently is non-existent and there is no clear cut communication lines to the actual individuals who could make this happen. It is critical that the AIFF not drag its feet so it can maintain utmost power with minimum oversight. Among the proposals it should consider is a form of scouting review, which their neighbors have managed to do quite so well with the inclusion of European based players.