A new season is just around the corner, and one news has caught Indian Football lovers by surprise. An IPL style football tournament would be organized by IMG-Reliance, the official partner of AIFF to complement the I-League. They have decided to make a parallel league of its own kind, which is supposed to be attracting a lot of interest among the football fraternity.
Cricket IPL is in real danger as the nuisance of spot fixing once again shook the base of the game. Cricketers, who are considered almost as God in this part of the world, have once again let down their followers. The media, experts of the game and even most of the ex-players are in the favor of stopping this. Cricket is a religion in our country and to say the least it has always been on the winning side of the crusades with other sports. But now, when the existence of the earlier is in danger the focus shifted towards the other sports. The big question now is, whether this will be, in any way, be beneficial for Indian Football?
The recent past of Indian Football has not been exciting. The rankings have been falling on a regular basis, and occasional success in Nehru Cup, have not helped to improve the scenario. India entered this Millennium with the mission of qualifying for the 2010 world cup. Like a lot of other dreams, this one also was never realized and the lack of planning and proper importance has been the major reasons behind this state of Indian Football.
India did well in the early 50s and 60s, despite the hangover of colonial slavery, there were some brilliant results to canvas the progress. One of the crucial members of those golden era of Indian football, Mr. P.K. Banerjee has a strong stand against this IPL-style football. According to Banerjee, as far as India is concerned, they are at the different layers in the global map as far as cricket and football are concerned. So what goes fine with cricket, cannot be implied in football. In cricket we have been world champions twice, won numerous trophies in India and abroad. Indian cricket team, despite the internal problems during IPL, are right now considered to be one of the strongest team in the world.
But if we shift our focus towards football, we barely have anything to mention. India did qualify for world cup in 1950, but have nothing to show for in the recent past. India won Nehru Cup last year beating Cameroon B team in the tie-breaker and media was there to ensure that the incident was blown up to the utmost extent. It would be hard to believe that in 1948 London Olympics, eleven Indian players made quite a match against France. Although they were beaten 1-2, but their efforts were well recognized. Within 50 years France went on to become the world champions and we slipped down to 147th place. That has been the story so far with Indian football.
This IPL-style football tournament has promised Indian spectators to have a chance to watch their favorite (or rather once-favorite) International stars on the ground. The likes of Beckham, Owen, Raul etc are amongst the few who would probably be there to ‘entertain’ the mass. But a skeptical person might argue that how these players (most of them retired) help to improve the level of the game of sons of the soil? The answer is blowing in the wind.
As Banerjee said, it would not be of much help to our players, playing against or along with these “has-beens”, rather this huge money could have come handy if we would have channelized for the betterment of young players. In India, it’s an accepted fact that sport persons (except cricketers) dont make a lot of money, and to be honest, most of the time they struggle for existence, and football is not an exception. The lucrative money in IPL would surely be attracting for a lot of youngsters, but three-month entertainment-cum-football extravaganza won’t be helpful for their career in the long run.
It’s actually funny to see how Indian bureaucrats hesitate on whether to bid for under-17 world cup, but they take a quick decision on this kind of tournament. This eight team franchise-based tournament is supposed to be continuing for three months. The future of players who sign for this tournament continues to be in doubt as the tournament will run only for three months. In a meeting held in Mumbai, it was decided by the association of the clubs in I-League, the players who signed for the respective clubs would not be allowed to join the IPL, and neither they will sign the players coming back from this tournament.
To increase the dilemma even more, FIFA rules come in the way. According to the rule, players cannot change their team twice in the same season. This has forced the players to rethink their decisions, and reportedly Syed Rahim Nabi, Sanju Pradhan and others are trying to get back to the mainstream league. But according to some recent proceedings, it’s been said, that national football authority of a country has the freedom to tweak the rules with ‘Emergency loan window,’ through which players could go back to their I-League clubs. But AIFF is more keen on finding the solution on the table rather than going back to the book and even the recent emergency meeting between the clubs and the AIFF failed to break the ice leaving the players and the fans in a jeopardy.
The news, coming all the way from Brazil, didn’t make such a big fuss. Well, the result was kind of expected but even the strongest supporter would have hardly imagined such a ridiculous score line. Spain beat Tahiti 10-0, that too after missing a spot kick. Fernando Torres was guilty for missing the penalty, there is no surprise in that(Chelsea fans learned to live with that) but the surprising part was, the spectators and supporters of Tahiti, who roared when Chelsea striker’s kick hit the crossbar and went away. That was really inspirational to see those people supporting their country’s football team when the scoreboard of Maracana was showing 9-0 in favor of Spaniards. They never stopped cheering for their team. Every tackle, every attack, every save they made on the ground was well appreciated.
Another news was big. It was also from Brazil. The people of Brazil started a revolt against the government. It was a peaceful protest, but such was the impact, that it made President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, to address the mass to withdraw the movement. People of Brazil were showing their agitation against government. While locals demonstrate upsurge over the cost of stadiums for next year’s World Cup, government corruption, lack of education, public health issues and transport price hikes, most of the fans of the beautiful game around the globe only care about what happens on the pitch.
These two incidents have shown some significant aspects of the ever changing scenarios around the game. Where on one side, there is an astonishing story of Tahiti coming alive to the world of football (Tahiti’s FIFA ranking is just little ahead of ours[Tahiti-138, India-147]), the other one was portraying that a country like Brazil (known to rest of the world mostly for football and partly for coffee)wasn’t happy the with the way the things have gone so far, despite their eternal love for the game. It was once again proved, entertainment wasn’t enough to keep those voices calm.
The players, supporters and lovers of the game in India are standing at a juncture, where fame, money, glitter and glamour would be within reach and another side would be the unachieved dream of playing world cup.
***Written by Guest Author Usnish Guha ***