Sunday, December 18, 2005

The battle of the minnows

Last night a 2-0 victory over Bangladesh gave India regain their supremacy in the South Asia after six years. Should we be really delighted? Will this win move Indian football to its' old glory? The answer unfortunately is - No.

It is now a known fact that football is been played throughout the world, with passion, with enthusiasm and skills. The countries those were not playing are trying hard to get a pie in the cake, the football-developed nations are busy keeping their supremacy intact. But, we in South Asia, are lagging behind others day by day. No South Asian country figures within top hundred in the FIFA ranking. Hence, a win in a battle of the minnows is meaningless, though surprisingly, we lost it last couple of occassions.

There are reasons for what South Asians are not truly in business with football. The well-discussed one is that of lack of physical strength and stamina. However, in a sports like Hockey, where subcontinent has a seizable share of glory, it also requires to be strong physically. Also, countries like Japan are doing well today's football without much of physical advantage. Pakistan has a lot of tribes and ethnic races like Pathans and Punjabis who are physically strong, same is the case of India. Then why are not these doing well?

The answer lies in the economic factors and awareness factors. Football has grown as a market in last three decades. and has left the countries that are poor or has a poor football-market further behind. The Africans fare better despite being poor, as the players go to play in Europe, as a result of their football-market. Football is considered as major source of employment in these countries, sharp contrast to the Sub-continent, where no sports other than cricket, is viewed as a bread-earner. The other problem is the middle-class apathy towards body-contact games in the region. Hence, the economic improvements in the region are not getting translated to improving football standards.

Still, I believe, there are people who play football from their heart, and also have some natural skills in this sports. People from entire North-East India, are passionate about football. However, due to the insurgencies and instability in this region, coupled with less economic growth, the real progress is still getting blocked. As time goes, I hope, all regions in India will join the growth bandwagon and will translate the North-East Indians' skill into real power for India.

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