When talking about the sports scene in India, the country is almost always attributed with cricket both by its citizens as well as the world. Considering that India has one of the best cricket teams in the world, has produced some of its best players, and has won numerous accolades, cricket is the obvious answer. Indians are never shy about displaying their love for cricket either. But the fact remains that the country is and has always been extremely passionate about football. India may not have left its mark on the sport yet, but football’s clout on the nation is undeniably huge.
Sure, you can always find fans of other sports who will engage you in insightful conversations about their favorite outlet. But having no knowledge about the basics of any sport, it has been my experience that conversations with football fans are always more interesting. The sheer amount of passion with these people talk about their favorite clubs or players is always a pleasant sight, though a bit baffling to the uninitiated. The way they devise strategies for their idols will rival the most efficient military tacticians.
Taking all this into account, it is rather a sad fact that India’s involvement in football on a global scale is rather limited. We’ve all heard stories about how the Indian team couldn’t participate in the FIFA World Cup because they couldn’t play barefoot. However, of late, things are finally starting to look optimistic for football in India.
Since its inception in 2013, the Indian Super League has gained huge popularity in the county and has garnered global attention. But right now, the big win for Indian-football is the Under-17 FIFA World Cup. Not only did India get to participate in the tournament, it got to host the tournament across 6 different major cities across the country: Kolkata, Kochi, New Delhi, Navi Mumbai, Guwahati, and Margao. Now India did not score any big victories in the tournament. But as far as baby steps go, still a good way to kick-off the Football-Renaissance in the nation.
One of the venues for the tournament was the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. Having lived near the city all my life, it certainly was exciting to see hordes of people flock to the city to see the matches. Kerala is just as passionate about football as it is about good food, communism, and cinema. Take a bus ride through the state and it is highly likely that one of the roadside attractions you will see is people of various age groups enjoying an energetic game of football; under the scorching sun amidst the dust or while it’s raining heavily in the dirt.
Kerala made sure that they delivered a warm welcome to the World Cup as well. The Kerala Sports Council implemented a programme titled One Million Goals to promote the tournament by setting up centers where people could come and “score goals”. The aim of the programme was to simultaneously record at least a million goals across the state within a span of four hours. In addition to this, the Kochi Metro station near the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium had its walls adorned with artworks depicting football and other sports. The UDF party even postponed a state-wide hartal it had planned to conduct on 13th October to the 16th to make the city accommodating for the match on 13th.
Admittedly, it was disappointing to see India not get too far in the tournament. Even so, the number of Indians who went to see the various matches and cheer for the players and the game are testament to the fact that ultimately, it’s the overwhelming love for the sport that shall always prevail over.FIFA FIFA 2017 FIFA World Cup football Football Lover Sports