Thursday, September 03, 2009

Indian Football – Glory and Overhaul

The Indian football team has given great joy to the entire nation by winning their second successive Nehru Cup title by beating higher ranked Syria 6-5 in a thrilling match that had to be decided on a penalty shoot-out.


The man of the match was India’s goalkeeper Subrata Paul who pulled off 3 breath-taking saves in the penalty shoot-out including the most important one in the sudden death that won the match for India.

The match that was played on Monday 31st August night at Ambedkar Stadium, New Delhi had been stretched to the penalty shoot-out after the two teams were locked at 0-0 at the end of regulation time and 1-1 at the end of extra time. India’s Renedy Singh’s curling free kick goal in the 114th minute was neutralized by Syria with an injury time header.

If you want to send your congratulations to Team India, you can send an email to with the subject line 'My congratulations to Team India'. Visit for more details.

This win has helped India climb up 7 ranks in the FIFA World Rankings from 156 to 149. Refer the following widget (provided by for the FIFA World Rankings of the top teams.

The unfortunate part of this victory was that most of the Indians (I bet) weren’t even aware that India was playing Syria in the finals. It was only after India won the match and media across the country started broadcasting the news that the entire nation realized what has happened and started rejoicing. Nobody would have even known or bothered had India lost the match. In this country where Cricket is followed like a religion, football always takes the back seat. This mainly happens because the Indian football team is not amongst the best playing teams in the world – it’s ranked 149 in the FIFA World Rankings. People prefer to watch competitive games rather than one-sided matches. It’s not hard to imagine this - India playing a friendly against Brazil at home, Brazil going up 5-0 even before half time, the Brazilian coach then instructing his players to go slow and not to score any more goals just to keep the home crowd happy. It would be just like India taking on any non-test playing nation like USA in Cricket. People in USA would rather follow/watch popular sports like NBA, Baseball, American Football.

This situation needs to change in order to increase the popularity of Football in India. The right step towards bringing on this change, according to the Indian team's chief coach  Bob Houghton, is to work hard on improving the quality of younger players. He's even encouraging the country's footballers to try their luck in overseas leagues.

Are our players upto it? Yes, of course, they are.

Sunil Chettri, Mohammad Salim and Bhaichung Bhutia have been to trials in European clubs.

Also, players of Indian origin have already made a mark at the international level. Michael Chopra (ex-Sunderland) is a well-established striker playing now for Cardiff City FC. Check out his recent hat-trick at:

At the FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany, Vikash Dhorasoo, another player of Indian origin, played alongside Zinedine Zidane for France against Switzerland in a group match, thereby becoming the first footballer of Indian origin to play in the World Cup Finals. He almost scored a goal in that match. Watch his missed goal below:

Also, English Premier League club, Chelsea, has short-listed three young footballers of Indian origin as part of their talent search programme (source:

If these players can, many others can definitely follow suit. And suddenly we can have a great national team that can compete with the top teams. In this context, everybody would agree that Bob Houghton is probably the best thing that has happened to Indian Football (just check out the excerpts of his interview on the All India Football Federation website).

Also, according to me, the sport needs encouragement at the school level. Look at me - I love to play the game, but my school didn't even have a playground, keep aside proper sports facilities. Whatever football I have played so far has been played along with friends in a small residential compound. The only time I had adorned studs was when me and my friends had a friendly match with a team in our neighbourhood on a proper football ground. I simply can't refrain from telling you about this thrilling moment - I was playing as a centre-back and we were down by 0-3 because our goal-keeper had never manned a real-sized goal-post. I got the ball and ran towards the opposition half since I got a lot of free space fortunately. Dribbled past 2 players, got a glimpse of the opposition goal-post and let fly a shot from a metre ahead of the half line and scored the goal of my life! We won the match 5-4. This situation is true in case of many schools in India and this also should change.

With the hope of watching India play in at least one FIFA World Cup Finals in my life time, I sign off this post :)


  1. Anonymous11:56 am

    Oye!!! How can you forget to mention that you have also played night football, that also after 8.30pm till 10.00 pm. We didn’t have proper play ground but during our childhood we had played all kinds of sports. Starting from gotti to gilli dunda to Ko – Ko to pakda pakidi to stop-stop to football, cricket, hockey. You name it & have played all d games.

    We never choose sports as our career, not because we didn’t have proper playground or we didn’t had proper sports in school. Cricket Legend like Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar played galli cricket, they wanted to make there career as a Cricket Player. You all know what they have achieved. In India 3 things about football is famous, East Bengal Team, Mohun Bagan Team & Baichung Bhutia. Indian People just know that much only.

    In India most of the children don’t think sports as a career, even there parents also don’t think but to get admission in Collage or Government Job they use Sports Quota.

    Hat’s off to all the players of every game & sports who took the sport's seriously & made India proud.

  2. Awesome post Salil inviting you to share this at Sportskeeda .. we are a group of 180 writers .. glory to indian sports !