In a cricket-obsessed country like India, where the national game (Hockey) itself, struggles for identity and existence, a globally popular game like Football finds it difficult to establish its individuality as a sport in the country. But the Indian Football Team, time and again, has endeavoured to promote this game and has encouraged people to take it up as a sporting career.
With a history of almost 80 years, Indian Football team is governed by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and is a prominent member of the Asian Football Confederation. The Indian Football Team, since its inception, has seen many leaps and bounds. The first feat achieved by the team was a round of applause from the audiences at the 1948 London Olympics in a game against France, for their sporting manner. Though they lost the match, they were greeted and appreciated for their game. They missed a chance to play at the 1950 World Cup due to the laid-back attitude of AIFF, which stated Olympics to be more important than FIFA.
The period from 1951 to 1962 is considered to be the golden era in the history of Indian Football. The guardianship of legendary Syed Abdul Rahim made India the best team in Asia. The 1964 AFC Asian Cup is the most memorable tournament for India where they finished as first runner-up due to the efforts of then-current manager Harry Wright. The Indian Football team didn’t see a ray of light after this particular achievement.
One player who needs to be credited for making the sport noted back home has to be Baichung Bhutia. The Sikkimese Sniper is regarded as the torchbearer of Indian Football in the international arena. He has captained the team and was a striker before his retirement, which was a huge setback for the team. The athlete managed to garner reputation to the game by receiving awards such as Arjuna Award and Padma Shri and a stadium named in his honour.
Whatever the buzz which surrounds in the media, the Indian Football team is constantly trying to bring name and fame to the game. It’s only the Indian government which has failed to provide support and finance. Hardly any initiatives have been taken by the government to encourage this talented team and endorse the sport for its development in the country. Lack of infrastructure, funds, etc. has caused a major failure for ‘Football’ as a sport in the country.