These days, any good news regarding the Indian football is cause for celebration. While the football fraternity was torn between two spectrum of events across the globe, the loss of the man who fought against tyranny and injustice in his own way and the other being the excitement behind every ball that was placed into the 8 pots in Costa do Sauipe in Brazil.
Amid all that India beat South Africa and Uzbekistan to bring home, probably the biggest football tournament ever to be staged in the country – the 2017 Under-17 World Cup. Further strengthening FIFA’s commitment to take it’s tournaments to developing boundaries.
But is India ready?
Each top individual involved with the sport in the country, seem to believe so. Legendary Indian footballer Chuni Goswami talked about how hosting the event would be benefit infrastructure development and also allow youngsters to showcase their talent at the global level.
“It’s certainly a great step for development of Indian football. All the stakeholders will have to work in tandem to make the tournament a success. It will be a lesson for our youngsters to play alongside the best in the world. We have talented young kids on the block. Lack of exposure has kept them behind. Things will change with the World Cup. It will give us a huge boost,” the former Indian captain told PTI.
Current captain of the national team, ex-Sporting Kansas City forward – Sunil Chettri brought out similar sentiments while further discussing its impact on the U-17 team.
“I don’t think about the reason (why FIFA has awarded the tournament to India). It is a huge thing. I am not focusing how much they (U-17 team) are going to achieve. I am happy that we got it. I just want the best kids of the country to be chosen. It is the first tournament of this scale to happen in the country,” said Chettri during a promotional event here.
The country’s initial bid was rejected by FIFA in January due to “insufficient assurances” from the government. However, after those were converted to sufficient assurances based on written guarantees on tax exemption for broadcasters and sponsors, foreign exchange remittances, security, transport and accommodation of players, and visa, among others, $20 million has been set aside to upgrade the various stadiums. An additional $5.3 million will be added to act as buffer, which, if taking the example of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, will not be sufficient.
The botched hosting of the Commonwealth Games in 2010 cost the country a lot of support. The Games were supposed to be a proclamation of the country’s onset at an international level. At the time its economy had cleverly rebounded from the global financial crisis. Instead, project overruns, corruption and substandard labor put focus on India’s long-enduring problem – the ability to deliver. Moreover, the recent statement by IOC President Thomas Bach suggesting with a strong voice, that India could be kicked out of the Olympic movement unless it keeps corrupt officials out of its ranks, is something to worry about. And with Praful Patel heading the AIFF, the man has been dragged into his moral, legal and practical objections related to developing the country.
Secondly, a matter of serious concern would be the safety of women in certain regions of the country. With national uproar over a number of rape incidents, the country has certainly faced flak for its dealing over the cases.
Will it raise the profile of the sport in the country? Yes, most likely it will. To a certain level if not significantly, but it all depends on how various commercial entities see their ROI increase from within the sport and the ability of the officials to do what is right to promote the sport among the masses.
But this is a country that went to the 1948 Olympics, only losing out to France by a goal playing barefoot and as legend has it, was commended off the pitch and to the 1950 World Cup only to be withdrawn by the AIFF based on the greatest conspiracy theory to ever hit Indian football. The various theories being FIFA officials did not want India to play barefoot, the AIFF could not afford to send the team to Brazil and one that has been confirmed to be the closest – the AIFF just did not take the World Cup seriously.
It is a country of a few and that of the forgotten many. Hence, with the U-17 World Cup coming to India, the officials (both politically and football) will eventually have to wake up and clean out their closets.