Last Ai??year, when Cardiff city striker Michael Chopra, expressed a desire to play for India, it certainly created quite a bizarre situation for the AIFF. Here was a player who has been plying his trade in English football for the past 10 years wanting to play for India.

Though he never made it to the English senior squad, a player with so many years of experience in the European circuit would have meant a lot to Indiaai??i??s chances in World Cup qualification.Ai??Of course, the move didnai??i??t fall through since Chopra didnai??i??t accept the AIFFai??i??s proposal of taking an Indian passport (India doesnai??i??t have the option of a dual citizenship).

Quite recently, I-league top-scorer last season and current Mohun Bagan striker Odafe Okolie also expressed interest in playing for the Indian national football team. Whilst the AIFF is still deliberating on this issue, the Nigerian’s desire once again poses a conundrum for the board as well as the fans.

.

Chopra came knocking earlier. Okolie now..

.

There is no doubt about the quality that a player like Odafe or Chopra could bring in to India’s national team that has recently seen its greatest talisman in Bhaichung Bhutia retire. But the fact remains that any such action would only prove to be a temporary fix on an ailing footballing system in the country. There is no doubt an Indian football fan would love to see his country play in the FIFA World cup finals but one is afraid that it would simply mask – and not solve – the misgivings in the country’s sporting system.

India is languishing at rank 163 as per the official FIFA rankings. One could argue that it makes sense for the AIFF to do all it can to ensure that India manages to qualify for the World Cup finals, but rather than finding a temporary fix, the AIFF has to ponder its policies to sustain impact in the long run. In the AFC group that India is part of, the team is surrounded by super powers of the likes of Australia, China, South Korea, Japan and the likes. Thus, if the AIFF is to entertain any chances of qualifying it would only be through a meticulous approach that would ensure that there is something as an Indian core footballing ideal.

The reason for this is that every sporting superpower, be it in any sport, has created itai??i??s own identity in the game. In football, the likes of Brazil and Spain have stuck to their own identities when it comes to the style of play. This permeates through all levels of their footballing institutions right from the national team to the lowest levels of the club competitions. This makes it easier for the transition of talent from the lower leagues to the national team. More than that, it creates the Ai??impression as to how much the team stands by its ideals. By ensuring that the Indian team evolves a finite spirit, the AIFF makes its own job easier. It guarantees that it can create a certain footballing vision in the country that lasts more than just one major tournament, more than just a couple of years.

It will be tough and patience is the key. Something as dramatic as this cannot happen overnight. For this, the federation needs to commit itself completely. The main question arises now as to who creates that vision. For this it needs to ensure that it can draw from best footballing minds in the country to help in building the collective footballing vision of the country. Ai??A visionary needs to head such a project at AIFF.Ai??Ex-players and coaches must be actively involved in building the tactical nous that maybe required for achieving this ideal. Baichung Bhutia is already doing his bit in nourishing the Indian stars of tomorrow.

So the ball is in AIFFai??i??s half. It can decide whether to take the top-down approach of building the national team by including interested players like Odafe, who would easily justify their presence in the team and help inspire more football fans. Or they could take a bottom-up approach, wherein the federation overhauls and improves the lower level infrastructure in the country to suit its ambitions in the future.

Every football fan must have an opinion on this. Perhaps, it boils down to what one wants – short-term success with immediate returns or long-term success that deferred, but sustained, returns?

———–

Written by guest author Harish Narayanan

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12 Responses to “Indian Football: AIFF’s Odafe-Chopra Conundrum”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Hemant says:

    great observation’s !!!
    but i think indian football need’s little exposure and addition of such talented and famed player’s would simply enhance that!!
    it also creates a competitive environment and urge to do well in front of good players!!

  2. Shelton says:

    Chopra is ok because he has Indian roots, but odafa is not Indian and him being in the ‘Indian’ national team will no longer make the team Indian!

  3. In my opinion, recruiting PIO or NRI players for the Indian team is an excellent idea to bring that extra bit of quality to an already improving side. Indian guys like Harmeet Singh (Valerenga) Danny Batth (Wolves) Chopra is a brilliant move to bring in quality Euro-based talent.

    The only problem is the strict Indian nationality laws that require people who want to apply for it to give their’s up.

  4. oh and as far as Odafe goes, does he qualify for naturalised Indian citizenship?

    If he can and he wants to apply and he has no problem giving up his Nigerian citizenship, then he should be considered Indian :)

    trust me, in football you need quality no matter who brings it. all that is required is loyalty to the shirt you wear 😉

  5. Joogy says:

    I think the fact that Chopra has decided to state he wants to play for India now is like playing your final card in the hope something comes up. He could have stated at the start of his career he wanted to play for India but he has said it now because he has no chance of playing for England. On a positive note, it does bring good publicity to Indian football but we as a nation and Indian players playing everywhere in the world must first get more players playing at a higher level.
    I have recently started a blog/website about indian footballers and welcome anyones opinions and input.
    Please take a look as we should all have one aim.
    Thank you.

    Joogy

  6. Footynions says:

    Great article. However, it just does not end there. I have witnessed multiple Indian talents just go to waste. And these guys were players who did not have the amenities the current Indian youth (footballers) have, however limited it be :). Check out a post on a similar issue:

    http://footynions.com/post/9593726950/the-misery-that-is-indian-football

    Let me know what you think.

  7. SB says:

    Just like we add catalyst to our foods bringng in PIOs would give the neccessary boost to the game. Sponsors and money will flow in and the game in India will improve a lot. Thats what we have to understand.Talking about patience how long should one wait ? It has been over 4 decades that India enjoyed a name in football.If we give PIO’S or foreign national a chance it will still be fighting with the Indians to perform and this will urge our footballers to perform even better. C’mon think bigger

  8. Avijit says:

    agree with the author about the need to overhaul the existing youth system in the country to pick up more domestic talents. But the fact remains that without the national team doing well the common masses will not be inspired to take up football nor would the sponsers come knocking….by inclusion of players like Chopra, Odafae, netan sansara (plays in league one of english football) etc our national team will get that extra bit of quality and mental toughness which is required to achieve better results in international matches. once national team starts doing well more ppl will be inspired to take up football and as a result of increasing popularity the sponsors will come in and bring in the necessary investment in the infrastructure of the game. thus both the youth development and national team success should go side by side. And lets not forget that even the top teams have players from other nationalities (ozil (turkish origin) but plays for germany, balotelli (cameroonian) plays for italy….and not to forget the FRENCH national team which is full of immegrant african players who play for their adopted country). Also most of the gulf countries like yemen, bahrain, qatar have african players playing in their national teams…..

  9. Harry says:

    SB, the point here is , how do you attract sponsors and audience to a sport that you are 163rd in the world. We would have to have one BIG talent amongst us to create waves, to interest people into watching the game/

  10. Joogy says:

    Hi,

    I thought the blog/website would have been put up from my original post but I forgot to include it!

    It is: http://www.indianfootballers.com

    It would be great if you could all have a look and participate. I went to a meeting at Wembley Stadium a fortnight ago about Asians in football and will publish what was discussed next month on the site.
    The important thing is for us to all pull together in the same direction. Once you have had a look at the site and want to contribute anything at all please simply drop me a post via the site and I will gladly get back to you.

    Thanks
    Joogy

  11. roy says:

    Thought playing Foreign player or Indian origin players may provide a quick fix , it also will play an important role in development of football. With quality of the national team rising , so will be the competition to make the cut, which will benifit the domestic football. Even Japan followed the principle with Brazilians and Japanese origin players playing for the team in the 90’s but now the domestic players have caught up to the level. Tough the Japanese also had very god youth development

  12. Aaryf(Bbsr) says:

    Great chance for indian football…..Aiff should cash in this opportunity it will have a big impact.
    I wish govt of india should do any thing to bring Odafe & Chopra like players to play for india.