In the month of July 2012, a District Sports Association organized second division football league match was being held at the DSA Ground in one of the district headquarters of Assam in front of a paltry crowd, seating on the concrete slab of an open-roofed gallery, trying to save their faces under the scorching sun. Just after the quarter of an hour mark, the game had to be paused as the players were complaining about a leakage in the ball.
The referee asked the organizers for a replacement of the damaged ball. In came two gentlemen from the organizing committee – surprisingly not with a football in hand, but with a roll of adhesive bandage, generally used to tape human wounds, along with a scissor instead. With great craftsmanship – much to the amusement of a handful of spectators – they expertly managed to prevent the leakage by wrapping a strip of plaster over the surface of that damaged ball. Meanwhile, one of the players from substitutes’ bench rushed towards the nearest cycle repairing stop to borrow a bicycle pump in order to blow up the deflated ball and eventually the game resumed after a half-an-hour delay.
Ironically, the farce transpired at just a stone-throwing distance from the residence of an influential Assam Cabinet Minister – who, incidentally, till a couple of years ago was serving as the Sports and Youth Welfare Minister of the state.
Moral: Indian football will not be able to wake up from the deep slumber unless proper measures are taken at the grass-root level to provide the bare necessary infrastructure. It’s high time the negligent attitude of the governing body and the members of its child associations undergo a complete makeover.
He was habituated to wake up sharp at 6 O’clock in the morning – everyday, without fail. It’s a custom implanted by his father when he was a kid and he followed the same routine for over six decades. He could never be late, because of the kids, who would be eagerly waiting for their “Coach Sir” at the Municipal Grounds of this small industrial town of Barrackpore in the state of West Bengal. Every blade of grass dipped with dew at the Municipal ground would wait eagerly for his touch to wake up to a new sunshine. They would tempt him, invite him to play with them and he would oblige.
However that fateful evening changed everything, not only for the old man, but also for his pupils. Why did the parents accuse him of ruining their kids and threatened him with dire consequences if he continued to train them? Why this preconceived notion about football being a game for the boisterous kinds? The old man was threatened, but he was not bogged down by those threats. How could he stop himself from letting the little ones know about the nitty-gritty of the game which he loved from the core of his heart? He had never imagined in his wildest dreams that the civilized parents would actually stoop to such a level and hire goons to teach him a lesson.
Sitting on the wheelchair, he tries to figure out what wrong did he commit to warrant such a treatment! He was only trying to provide wings to the wishes of those kids in his locality who dreamt of becoming footballers. Why modern day Indian parents give it their all to mould their kids on the footstep of Sachin, Lara and Ponting but the same set of people turn violent at the very prospect of their children becoming professional footballers? Why this step-motherly attitude towards this beautiful game?
Moral: The Sleeping Giant will not be able to wake up until there is a change of mentality among common people of the country. The step-motherly treatment towards the game of football from all quarters has to stop in order to reclaim its lost glory.
Post independence, India enjoyed the tag of being a football powerhouse for more than a decade – not only at the continental level, but also around the globe. A decline in quality, and hence popularity of football in India was first observed in late 1960s and then gradually the country went into a deep slumber of anonymity by the end of 1970s. Throughout the next decade, India had often been referred to as the “Sleeping Giant”. Till those days, the innumerable fans of the beautiful game in India would believe that one day the giant would wake up again and realize its potential as an Asian powerhouse. With the turn of another decade, slowly the belief evaporated and they started to question themselves as to when the giant will wake up. With the turn of century, pessimism made its presence felt and a fear gripped the imagination of Indian football fans, who rather questioned – “Will the Sleeping Giant be able to wake up ever?”
An honest answer to that question would be – “NO”. There are little indication to suggest anything positive. The Sleeping Giant has moved to a state of induced coma because of the constant negligent behavior meted out for more than half a century. The current condition of Indian football is comparable to a patient put on ventilator support. The Sleeping Giant can not wake up on its own. The beautiful game will not come out off the life support system until an honest effort is made to curtail the step-motherly treatment which come from all quarters for over half a century. It will take a gigantic collaborative effort from the Government, the Administrative body, the players, the coaches and the religious Indian football fans to earn back the lost status quo – before it gets too late.