The FIFA World Cup is the most prestigious tournament held every four years and the 22nd edition of the FIFA World Cup started on 20th November and will conclude on 18th December 2022. Footballers from across the world have been showcasing their talent for their teams. However, all countries can’t take part in the FIFA World Cup because there is a limit on the number of teams. There is a huge fan following in India who wants to see their country playing at the World Cup. But this time again, India did not play in Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022 because they were eliminated in the second round of the Asian World Cup qualifiers and were placed 3rd in Group E with seven points.
Football in India is quite popular and many states in India have regional governing bodies as there are 37 state associations affiliated with the All India Football Federation. Indian football has come a long way and different football clubs and franchises have seen a catastrophic change in the face of the world’s most loved sport in recent decades.
The Suspension of AIFF by FIFA
Recently, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) suspended the All India Football Federation (AIFF). The sudden suspension came after FIFA suspected undue third-party interference in the management of the AIFF, a breach of FIFA’s statutes. However, this ban was lifted after a few days, but even then the case was very embarrassing for India.
Team India: A “Sleeping Giant” in Football World?
In 2006, then FIFA president Sepp Blatter described India as a ‘sleeping giant’ in the football world. From the national team line-up to the domestic tournaments, there have been humongous changes in recent years, but the blue tigers have failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup.
The young players from India are doing quite well in domestic leagues and may have won hearts, and attracted huge crowds to their matches, but the fact remains that Indian football still has a long way to go before it can earn the status to play in the FIFA World Cup.
Led by Sunil Chhetri, the Indian football team was knocked out in the second round of the qualifying stage. India is in the 106th position in the official ranking of FIFA and even failed to acquire a spot in the top hundred. Many people believe that the biggest reason for India not qualifying for FIFA WC is that football is not as popular as cricket in India. Many people prefer cricket over football, so talent is not recognized. The Indian football team is working hard to be one of the best but less media coverage and inappropriate sponsorship are becoming a big factor in the Indian team’s game.
When was the last time India qualified for the FIFA WC?
The Indian football team qualified for the FIFA World Cup held in Brazil in 1950 and despite this, the team did not play in the World Cup.
India was scheduled against Sweden, Italy, and Paraguay in the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. But FIFA banned India from the tournament for ‘disagreements over team selection, and insufficient practice time. But there were rumors that the Indian team wanted to play barefoot but wasn’t allowed.-- Advertisement --
Since then, India has never qualified for the quadrennial FIFA showpiece. Interestingly, several members of the Indian team competed in the 1948 London Olympic football tournament barefoot, with their feet bound in bandages to prevent injury.
Top Reasons Why India is not so popular in the Football World
India: The craze for Cricket Over Football
The condition of all sports apart from cricket is nearly the same when we consider fan support. Cricket is considered a religion in India as billions of Indians watch and follow cricket. Other leagues like ISL and PKL have been gaining popularity but not as same as IPL. In many games of the Indian national football and a few I-league clubs, the attendance to these games averages around 20k to 40k (except for a few games like the Kolkata derby).
It makes a massive difference if you have a huge crowd cheering for you and your team.
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Lack of Infrastructure & Long-Term Vision
The Lack of infrastructure and long-term vision are two of the biggest factors creating hindrances in the growth of football in India. India lacks a quality football stadium. Few of the biggest and most popular clubs in India don’t have proper training and medical facilities.
In places like Delhi, and other states where this sport is quite popular, the government needs to establish new football centers and provide training facilities to budding talents. In India, football stadiums with international standards are in fewer numbers as compared to the size of the Indian geographical area and fan following. In India, more than 30 million viewers watch the European Football League so it is high time that Indian football should be promoted at the grassroots level.
Promotion of Sport
India is always known as a cricketing nation. One of the major reasons that India held a poor ranking in FIFA is because of the lack of proper facilities and awareness about the sport. AIFF has somehow failed in the promotion of football on the global platform.
The domestic leagues of football have gained huge popularity in India. The arrival of ISL (Indian Super League) has seen a renewed interest in football among the masses. In India, football is popular in states like Goa, Kerala, Manipur, and West Bengal but most ISL clubs don’t have proper training facilities and academies.
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