By Aritra Mukherjee:
As we gear up for the quarter-finals of the world cup and hope for some nail-biting finishes like the Round of 16 gave us, it is probably a good time to ponder also on why we are not part of this world cup and what can be done to improve the scenario. A cricket crazy nation with a misconception about Hockey as its national sport is the first nail on the coffin. I cannot possibly fathom how, as Indians, we celebrate a sport as our national sport even when most of us don’t even know the name of the team’s captain, whose star players or key players when searched give onlyÂ 20 pages of search results and 35,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook at maximum, while a cricketer ends up having at least a lakh ‘likes’.
Now, I am not into Cricket bashing but the simple fact remains that it angered us when Maria Sharapova didn’t know who ‘God’ Sachin Tendulkar is. Now, imagine the pain of that football player who works his ass off and yet people in our country would ask ‘who is he?’ And an ordinary Indian would say “who cares” yet we don’t hesitate to call Manchester United or Liverpool as our team and even start arguments regarding the same as if we were the protector of that name. Foreign teams have the highest ‘likes’ by people from India and we also wake up till midnight or till 3:30 AM in some cases to watch a UEFA Champions league match.
Many people have blamed the government and deservedly so, as it reeks of nepotism and suffers from conflict of interest when it comes to national selection. However, ‘we’ are the bigger problem; the ordinary citizen of this country. Simply put, we don’t like the domestic version of this game and we can’t name even 5 players from this current squad and one can’t dare blame media coverage because, I-League (yes, there is an official Premiere League of football in India) is telecast on TenSports, and the international games are also televised on that channel. Yes people, we have a league and there are teams like Mohun Bagan, East Bengal (my favourite), Bangalore FC (current champions), Dempo FC etc. and I can carry on with the list but who gives a damn! Because that’s the issue – ‘no one cares’. We, as Indians, do not care about this sport in India and have completely given up on it. No wonder we are ranked 146th but hey, we are better than Pakistan! Isn’t that what Indians always want?
Surprise! Surprise! We have a women’s team as well which is currently ranked 50th in the world and is playing really well. Here, I will try to please the media bashers as the media and sponsors truly ignore these amazing women and also, I guess now we have all heard of YUWA but they didn’t even get a great reception when they won third place at the Gasteiz Cup. This explains a lot about how we treat children who wish to pursue this sport. Parents hand over a bat and say “bat like Sachin or Kohli” but when was the last time that some parent gave a ball to a boy or a girl and said, “Play like Bhutia”?!
However, I wish to hear the Indian National Anthem being played at the world cup and hope that we get to host a world cup someday too. Here is the good news, we are hosting the Under-17 Men’s World Cup in 2017 and it would serve as a huge boost for young children now. Such an event will not only get the government active but also prove to be a chance to show IOA and FIFA that we are capable of hosting events. The world cup might stir us from slumber and create an interest for the sport at home.
Furthermore, India currently has a new league coming up and big money has been invested on it, it goes by the name of Indian Super League which is a month long event and will feature famous players like Crespo, Ljunberg, Saha etc. and King Kenny as manager of one of the teams. Moreover, it also promises money laden platform for the cash stripped football association of India and I wish it all the success and finally hope that we start caring about this beautiful game and its prospects in this country.