After the announcement and unveiling of the Delhi team for the forthcoming Indian Super League there was an air of excitement among the football fanatics in the capital. After all, it is very rare that the fans of the game in Delhi get to witness a live football match of some quality and at a certain level. ISL will surely put this thirst to an end, momentarily of course. Delhi Dynamos are all set to roar, put forth their challenge and with the marquee player position still be filled; this team will be able to garner more excitement till the name is announced.

But if someone concludes that this will be the much required boost to kick start the football scene in the capital is surely lacking some history lessons. It is not the first time the capital will bow down to its passion for football. There have been many clubs in the past that have managed to garner a name in Indian football and have placed Delhi on the highest football stage of the country. (Barring the National football league/I-League).

One such club is Hindustan FC. The club was incepted as early as 1948, with a clear motive to polish young talent, not only from India, but also from rest of the states as well. The club was one of the first in Delhi to land corporate sponsorship with big names like BHEL, ONGC, SAIL etc. The club has since then actively participated in some of the major domestic football tournaments including second division ILeague, Federation Cup and the coveted Durand Cup. The club has been a part of second division I-League for past seven years and has shouldered the responsibilty of representing the capital. In addition to this, the club also launched its academy in 2000- with a clear vision to develop talent. Hindustan FC is among very few clubs i Delhi which can boast about a robust academy.

Last season, HFC finished at the bottom of the ever competetive  I-League 2 table. The club from delhi could only managed to hoard four wins. But last year was historic for the club, in the sense that HFC once again led the way and became the first club from Delhi to be playing in the U-19 I-league final round. The academy boys from the club showcased immense grit to qualify for the final stage- surpassing teams like Bengaluru FC, Aizawl FC and Garhwal FC.

TheHardTackle caught up with one of the key members of HFC’s U-19 squad, Manas Bodh – who played a vital role in the teams’ endeavour in Jamshedpur. Manas plyed his trade as a defender (left Back)  for the club at the recently concluded U-19 I-League. Still a student at the Bluebells School, he candidly talks about various issues surrounding football in Delhi and about HFC in general, TheHardTackle’s Kunwar Deep Singh reports.

Kunwar: Hi Manas! First things first, The whole team here at TheHardTackle would like congratulate you on your pathbreaking season for the U-19 HFC team . We are all proud of the team and their efforts.

Manas : Thank You !

Kunwar :  How was the experience of playing in the U-19 I-League ?

Manas : Playing in the U19 I League was not easy job, the experience was phenomenal and everything was very professional. It all summed up as a experience which helps one grow as a footballer and as a person in general.

Kunwar : Bengaluru FC were the I-League champions but you defeated them in the first phase of the U-19 I-League. How was the experience of playing against them and how do you rate their team ?

Manas : Bengaluru FC was a very young and inexperienced side as it seemed to me, the only experienced player in their team was Suhas who had previously played for the junior Indian team as a right back. Their coach was good and they had a good tactical awareness of the game, in all their matches they came back strong after conceding first, in our match as well they conceded and then in the wake of making up for the deficit, as they needed a draw to go through to the final round, they pushed us up the field and pressurised from all sides but luckily were caught at the back on 2 ocassions which saw us through to the final round in a match where it was do or die or us and the crowd was packed, it was one of the best experiences to hear the final whistle and break out in joy with the crowd. Bengaluru FC gave us a hard time and I would rate them 7 on the scale of 1 to 10.

Kunwar : Hindustan FC lost all the five matches in the final round and finished at the bottom . Where do you think was the team lacking ?

Manas : There were many reasons and things at play which I think cost us all the matches. The tight schedule first of all was tiring for the players as the recovery time for our zone was about 4 – 7 days after the qualifiers although the champions TFA were facing the same schedule they got to play one match less and were well acclimatized to the weather conditions being the home team, all the other team had got a minimum 1 month rest and recovery period.

Kunwar : Who were some of the best players you played against in the U-19 I-League

Manas : All the players in the I League were exceptional, none of the players were for granted and all had the calibre to play at such a level. The TFA side had some brilliant players, one of them being the top scorer Udanta Singh.

Kunwar : Hindustan FC performed will in the I-League second division and also qualified for the final round in the U-19 I-League . What targets has the club set before itself in the coming year ?

Manas : The club aims to achieve more success by registering its name in the senior I League through the second division and by the look of it the club is strengthening its grassroots and youth squads, the U14’s U17’s and the U19’s. All thanks to the coaching staff and Mr. D.K Bose, the club president.

Kunwar : What are the your views on the facilities provided to the players in the U-19 I-League ?

Manas : I think the facilities provided to us by the AIFF were somewhat disorganised and mismanaged in the terms of supervision. I think all my teammates and coaching staff were nuch more content with what we had been provided by the TATA Steel organisation in our qualification round at Noamundi Iron mine rather than in the final round in the Jamshedpur main city. I think at a level like this, where things need to managed at at a very macro level, the AIFF should let the private firms take up the management as they have a greater human resource and are able to provide better, also what the AIFF should have done is that they should have provided the teams with a hotel in the final round and not just the budget as per a players daily wage in the final round, reason being that not every team can manage to book hotels and look out for the players at the same time, there should be some one from the higher up authorities who can supervise the conditions of players and provide a better if not worse accommodation to them. I think if the AIFF dont learn from such incidents then we are in for a shocker on terms of the sort of organisation we will be seeing at the U 17 World Cup which is to be held in India in the year 2017, if things are the same we will see a repeat of the Common-Wealth Games held at Delhi. At the higher level of organisation I believe there should be person who has been a player her/himself previously as it is better understood by them rather than a politician who knows just how to gain votes, that how and what sort of conditions would a player require in order to develop and perform better.

Kunwar : Great. So lets get the ball rolling then. Manas- you have managed to break through and now are very close to living your dream, which is to play in the I-League as a senior- What advice would you give to young lads who are aspiring to play the game?

Manas : If someone aspires to come at the level of I League and wishes to play at such a platform where it cant get any bigger I think hard work coupled with smart work would be the right way forward.

Kunwar : Hailing from Delhi, can you provide us a an insight into why there is not even a single I-League club from the capital- despite the game being popular in the capital?

Manas : There are many reasons to this particular issue, the capital city not having a club in then I League. The first and foremost problem is the organising bodies which are in place for development of football in the capital, officials find it hard holding on to their office, when this happens the system collapses, the tournaments which happen at the state level are poorly organised and hence there is no channelization of the pool of talent that we have. Secondly the reason also lies with in the attitude the players have towards the game, in spite of taking football seriously in the growing years one tends to depart from the game as soon as it comes to a career option, a result of our Indian mentality towards football not being a ‘productive’ life option and not having ‘scope’, its a whole nexus of misconceptions and stereotypical thinking towards any sports but cricket in India which makes the sports people in the other discipline suffer a lot and changes the thinking and attitude of each one which really hard to break in little or less time.

Kunwar: Awesome. Thanks Manas for obliging and taking some time out from your schedule. I hope Hindustan FC scales new heights and all the Delhites are treated to watch their own club in the top division of Indian football pretty soon. Thank You !

Manas: My Pleasure. Thanks !