Monday, December 25, 2017

The Future of Indian Football

By comparison with Cricket, scope in Indian football was very limited. Although there has been a huge paradigm shift in the last couple of years.
Football always had a particular set of loyal fans(considering only Indian clubs and Indian football team) while there are European football fans too who would know more about an El Clasico rather than a Mohan Bagan-East Bengal derby.
Over the last few years, a lot has been happening in the Indian football circuit. While the national team ranking has touched a 21 year high - 96th position in FIFA ranking this July, interest and excitement around clubs and league has also been high.

The domestic Clubs circuit in India has shown a rise in number of followers, while the game always had huge number of fans from the NorthEast, Kerala and Kolkata. IMG-R’s Indian Super League brought in a wave of new fans from other cities to the game.
A file photo of football fans during the Kolkata derby
Although AIFF and IMG-R are often criticized for poor scheduling of ISL and ignoring the Domestic league of India, one cannot ignore the fact that the ISL has definitely improved the picture of Indian Football. While the I league clubs has kept Football in India running over the years, ISL with its new franchise based clubs has brought in a new set of Indian football fans to the picture, while also bringing international interest to Indian football.

Domestic Leagues has also grown in quality and excitement, with even smaller clubs producing some extra-ordinary performance. Aizawl FC, a team that was relegated in 2016 season and played this year due to many others clubs pulling out, had a Leicester city kind of run in this year's I league. Winning the league beating the likes of Mohan Bagan, East Bengal and Bengaluru FC. Such was the fairy tale turnaround that apparently there will be a Bollywood movie regarding them.
While there is a long road for India to reach the World class level, among the Asians, India has seen a lot of Improvements. Bengaluru FC a club born in 2014 has already created a name for themselves with consistent performances both at the domestic and Asian level. The Club has already won 4 trophies in 4 years and finished as runners-up in 2016 AFC Cup (The Europa Cup of Asia) and a semi-final finish in this years edition.
After the disastrous world cup qualification run in 2015, the Indian National team went on to improve a lot, winning games regularly and eventually qualifying for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup - Only the second time in 3 decades.
Jeakson Singh - The lad who made billion dreams come true with a moment of brilliance. Indian U17 football teams lanky defender. Pic Credit: Nikhil Patil
Football in India is slowly picking up with possible merger of the top two leagues- ISL and I league by next year. The recently concluded U-17 FIFA world cup has given Indian football a much needed boost with more and more youths getting interested in sports, while clubs are to getting involved in developing these talents by creating youth Academies.
So scope for Indian football may not have been the best, but now is the time for any youngsters to get into the game as they have the best possible chance to change the football scene in India.
For more of my work on Indian Football, visit Football Counter

Also Read: Are the popularity of other Indian sports back?

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