With Indian Football at its most crucial times, we look at what is in store for Indian Football in the year 2012. The year, that kicks off with the much talked about India-Bayern matchup and the exhibition match in Kolkata featuring the likes of Ronaldo and Cafu, has a lot in store for the Indian football fraternity. With the world keeping a close eye on Indian Football,Ai??Indian football faithfulAi??hope that India would break the shackles this year. TheHardTackle previews whatAi??could turn out to be pivotal moments for Indian FootballAi??in the year 2012.


AFC Challenge Cup 2012:

This is perhaps the most important event in the calendar for the Indian team, which is scheduledAi??to be held in Nepal from 8th-12th March and a victory here will provide India not only a chance to participate in Asian Cup 2015, but alsoAi??offer opportunities to play friendly matches against quality and much higher ranked Asian sides. Indian team gotAi??some invaluable exposure by locking hornsAi??against Thailand, UAE, Iraq and Yemen ahead ofAi??the lastAi??edition’s tournament in Doha and the AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal can very well be the perfect platform for the Blue Tigers to awake the so-called sleeping giants.

Clubbed in a tough group with DPR Korea, Tajikistan and Philippines in Group B, India surely will be no rollovers. A proper training camp and an injury free squad minus the ageing players like Climax and Steven Dias will allow India to take a shot at the glory. AIFFAi??should leave no stone unturnedAi??and arrange for friendly matches in run-up to the tournament to allow the squad to prepare in the best possible way. Every Indian fan will keenly be watching this tournament hoping thatAi??the nationalAi??team continues its dominanceAi??of SAFF Cup here as well.


East Bengal and Salgaocar’s Participation in AFC Cup 2012:

I-League winners and runner-ups of last season,Ai??Salgaocar SCAi??and East Bengal FC respectively, are all set toAi??feature in the prestigious AFC Cup. Both the clubs have had different starts to this seasonai??i??s I-League with East Bengal emerging as early title contenders and Salgaocar languishing in the bottom half of the table. Both squads have enough fire-power to give the top clubs in Asia a run for their money. This is Salgaocarai??i?? s first appearance at the continental level and will provide opportunities to the like of Rocus Lamare, Francis Fernandes, Gilbert Oliveira and others to prove their mettle.

For East Bengal this will be their 6th appearance at the continental stage and after finishing at the bottom of their group last time, they will look to bounce back and prove a point to their religious supporters. The likes of Mehtab Hossain, Sanju Pradhan, Raju Gaikwad along with the foreign players like Tolgay Ozbey,Ai??Penn OrjiAi??and Uga Okpara can certainly put a lot on table and enhanceAi??Laal-Holud brigade’sAi??chance of doing well. The good performance of both the clubs will help raise the profile of Indian Football and attract more foreign players to the Indian clubs.


Change of Guard: From Seniors to the U-23 batch of players:

Itai??i??s high time that players like Jeje, Dika and few of the talented players of U-23 Olympic team take over the reigns of the team. Arnab Mondal, who has been a revelation for Prayag this season, has been singled out by Mahesh Gawli to take over his place after the defensive stalwart retired from international arena last month. Raju Gaekwad is already a regular member of the team and his long throw-ins along with strong defending are an asset to the team.

Dika is perhaps the best winger in the country and time is perfect for him to take over from ageing Steven Dias and Anthony Perrira. Jeje has now established himself as the first choice striker with Sunil Chetrri.Ai??Indian fans Ai??hope these players along with Jewel Raja (Mohan Bagan), Gurjinder Singh (Pune FC), Nirmal Chhetri (East Bengal)Ai??and Shilton D Silva, Jibon Singh, C.S. Sabeeth (All Pallian Arrows) will be given more opportunities by Savio Medira as time is running out for this great batch of footballers to make it big in the international arena.

The U-23 Indian team that started against Qatar in the Pre-Olympic Qualifier. The team has won a lot of admirers.

Ai??

More Exposure for the U-16 and U-19 Team:

The U-16 team qualified for the AFC U-16 tournament to be held in Iran this year after having finishing ruuners-up in the qualifiers held in Tashkent defeating mighty teams like Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan with Uttam Rai scoring 5 goals against Kyrgyzstan. The likes of Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Uttam Rai, Supratim Bhattacharjee are the future stars of our national team and the AIFF should ensure a proper camp for the U-16 boys before the finals in Iran.

After the success of the U-16 boys much was expected from the U-19 boys in the U-19 qualifiers and they didnai??i??t disappoint. Drawn in a tough group alongside hosts Iran, the mighty Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan, the U-19 lads played their hearts in the zero-degree cold of Tehran. The side defeated Turkmenistan 3-1 and then performed admirably against Iran to go down 3-0. In Indiaai??i??s third match against a Uzbek side which consisted of 6 players who played in FIFA U-17 Competition, India looked the better side throughout the match, till a late sending off gave Uzbeks the edge and they won 2-1 with the winning goal coming in 88th minute. The likes of Brandon Fernandes, Holicharan Narzary, Malswamfela are names that the football fans across the country are looking up to. Its up to AIFF to ensure proper development of these teams by organizing exposure trips. Some of the U-19 players are already playing for Arrows andAi??it is desirable that theAi??othersAi??should be given a chance as well.


Indian Players in I-League:

It does not happen that Indian strikers are among the goals in I-League but the performances of Manandeep Singh and Sandesh GadkariAi??of Air India and Anil Kumar for Chirag United Kerala FC raises hope for the future with regards to Strikers. Time is right for Lalkamal Bhomick to be given a chance in the India team as he has stolen the limelight from Joshimar and Yakabu who have been among the goals. Salgaocar players Francis Fernandes and Gilbert Olivera have been on the fringes for long and should be given a run in the national team. Same goes for Sanju Pradhan who has been tipped as the next big thing in Indian Football. Denzil Franco, one of the fastest fullbacks in the country, is still waiting for his chance.

Excellent performances by Maharashtra clubs like Mumbai FC, Air India and Pune FC with their limited resources raises hope that football is making a comeback in the state. The reopening of JCT would bring back the football to North India as well and make I-League a truly national affair. The I-League this season is also an open affair with a lot of evenly contested matches and they seem to have attracted the mediaai??i??s interest . These top I-League performersAi??deserve a chance to show their talent for the national team as well.

Rob Bann - Technical Director

Ai??

More Involvement of AIFF and Robert Bann:

With a young but talented IndianAi??squad and a lot of players waiting on the wings, its AIFFai??i??s responsibility to arrange for 12-15 friendly matchesAi??every year to allow the players fine-tune their skill-sets. These friendlies will give Indian players a much needed exposure and the tournaments like SAFF Cup can be used to give chances to the U-23 team. A lot will also be expected from technical director Robert Bann, who is now almost 3 months into his job. He is expected to change the long ball style of play that our national team adopted during Bob Houghton’s regimeAi??and also come up with creative and effective ways to tap the talent at the grass-root level.

All in all it promises to be an interesting and a crucial year for Indian Football with a lot of exciting events lined up.Ai??TheHardTackle familyAi??wishes best of luck to the senior team which is going to play in AFC Challenge Cup and also to the U-16 team which will play in the AFC U-16 Championship.

Indian football faithful do believe, – “We shall over-come, someday!”


~ Rahul Bhutani

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4 Responses to “Indian Football : Six Things To Look Forward To In 2012”

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  1. Abhik says:

    Brilliant write-up. Thanks.

    • Nwaezeigwe Kenneth says:

      Dear Sir,

      It is my pleasure to contact you as directed in your website concerning my talent, I am a very talented footballer here in Nigeria, presently, I am playing for a second division football club here in Nigeria. Club name: ROGGERS FOOTBALL CLUB, I desired coming to play in your club in India because I want to improve, I love the pattern of your club’s play and I assure you that I will not let you down. I play every wing but in my club I plays from the mid-field or sometimes from the wings. I am six fit tall, I was born in 1988. Thanks as I expect your prompt reply urgently.

      Nwaezeigwe Kenneth.

  2. Sarsing Gao says:

    Very good job, Rahul! Best wishes!

  3. k10 says:

    Nice article :)