By Anirudh Rayasam:
I had been feeling low for a few days. Lately, it got worse. Even though I caught up with my friends for a movie, the state of depression continued.
I’m a footballer and it has been quite some time, maybe over a week, since I had played. So, I thought of going out and playing for a while. I headed to the municipal stadium of my city and noticed some seven to eight children, aged between 12 and 15 years, kicking the football around. They hail from poor families and are given free coaching by the government stadium authorities. I walked towards them and asked if I could join them.
We started passing the ball to each other, having fun. After some time, their coach arrived. He included me gladly, divided teams and we started playing. We played in a small pitch, as we were only five-a-side. The game was intense.
To my surprise, these kids played exceptionally well. The control they had on the ball, the agility, passing accuracy and everything was phenomenal. It was delightful to see 12 year olds perform so well, especially in a country where cricket dominates the sports kingdom. Despite of this, India is a place of wonderfully talented footballers. These kids, with the little coaching that they’ve received, will surprise everyone. Thousands of such kids are present in different states, but why are we unable to win even the Asia Cup, let alone the World Cup?
This is because of lack of encouragement and support. Thousands of players begin training right from when they are six years old. They win many local tournaments only to end up with a job in either Railways or a bank. The society is blinded with the false impression that people who play football will not have a future. And that is why many players drop out in the 12th grade, and get into a job that they hate.
The elite nation, India, is destined to become the greatest of all the countries in the world, in all categories. If the right support is given by the government, to football, and for that matter all the other sports, we can easily produce a squad that will qualify for the World Cup in a few years. We have an immense history with great players like Chuni Goswami, PK Banerjee, Baichung Bhutia, etc. There are a lot of passionate young players and millions of fans who would do their bit to take India to heights, but all we lack is moral and financial support from the society and the government, respectively.
It is time people realized that this sport needs support and encourage their children to join schools which offer sports facilities. We have many coaching centres in the country with good, experienced coaches who provide football education at a very reasonable cost. But the equipment and facilities we have are far away from what is required to build a world class team. Also, many institutions and organizations conduct football tournaments regularly to give opportunities to players. We also have zonal tournaments all around the country. It is time that we concentrate on building a stronger team with passionate players, for we are a nation with a record of redefining history and should be the ones to create some in football as well.
These kids made me realize that football is not just a game. People like me and a million others are emotionally attached to it. Those two hours that I played with them were the best two hours of my day and a realization for a lifetime.