In the year 2014 we are going to witness the first Indian Super League (ISL) for the game of football. But will it turn out be as successful as the Indian Premier League (IPL) remained to be seen? Football is still a very popular sport in India, but somehow it never really has managed to capture the public’s love which cricket has. Maybe football needs a Tendulker who really changed the way we watched the game and also satellite television helped cricket a lot. This year, though during the football world cup many matches were played during the middle of the night, but still many of us stayed up late to watch important clashes. Going to office and getting any work done was an entirely different issue, but many Indians did watch the games and that tells us ‘football is alive in India’.
Promotion of the game
The United States of America (USA) hosted the world cup football, this blessed event back in 1994 and football or soccer as it is popularly known in the US was not even one of their favorite sports. Baseball, Basketball and American Football have always dominated American interest and billions of dollars are spent each year. But someone realized that to stay away from football, the most loved and popular sport in the world would not be prudent. Since then soccer in the US has been on the up and up. America is home to a very large Hispanic population and though other sports are popular with them, the game of soccer probably got promoted to the current breed of young Americans by their parents who may have played but certainly would have watched football when they were young.
Now the US team as managed to qualify to world cup finals every time. The question is how? Because china hosted world cup football and automatically received a slot as host nation, but since then have not managed to qualify for the world cup finals. In the US the infrastructure is so good that they have managed to generate some good players of international standard like Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey who in the 2014 world cup showcased his talents a top flight football player. Can the ISL help India develop into a top Asian team? If that will be the case, then all the support must be given to promote this sport. We must not hesitate to build world class faculties like we have for cricket because football has a much larger audience than cricket can ever hope for and since it is a seasonal sport unlike cricket which is played 365 days a year, it can be promoted much more efficiently.
Past and future goals
There was a time when India was a very good football side, but that was in the 1950s and 1960s which is also called the golden era of Indian football. But sadly throughout the following decades this great sport has declined due to poor facilities and infrastructure. This is what happens when sports are governed by bureaucracy and players are not given the kind of support which they deserve. If football develops into a popular sport as cricket which is possible with proper marketing and brand strategy, it could turn out be very lucrative for many sectors in India from Media to sports goods and merchandise, from infrastructure to tourism. But first we must become the best team in South East Asia and then slowly we could be in a position to try to qualify for the world cup.
The road to world cup finals which the dream of many Indians is far away but the ISL may be the remedy which we are looking for and with the likes of Former cricket captains Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly buying teams, definitely they will be able to attract large crowd. Also the sponsors must also invite famous football players of past and present. Also if we have a world class stadium which meets FIFA and international standards, we can host matches of Champion league and may be a friendly match between a two major football playing nations.
Hopes and dreams
Football is a game where the operating cost for an individual is much cheaper than cricket and this could be taken as an advantage, plus it is a very fast sport with results within two hours or more. Football academies need to be set up all across the country to train young and aspiring athletes to become football players which can also be used as an outreach program for the socially underprivileged, because you never know where you may end up discovering some raw young talent.
These factors will help attract more audience and the game will grow more in India. IPL has given rise to some very young exciting cricketers in just few years of its inception then it is quite possible that one day we could release our dream of watching Indian football players, playing for top club like Manchester united, Liverpool and Arsenal in English Premier League or any other top football clubs in other leagues in Europe. It is time, football in India got the attention and recognition it truly deserves and who knows somewhere out there, in the vast expanse of our country, there is a player with the caliber of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, just waiting for an opportunity.
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