Just a few days ago, former Manchester United defender Mikael Silvester stated that India needed better infrastructure, if local football talent was to be developed to a higher standard. The reality is that India are 147th in FIFA’s ranking of international sides and given the country’s size and its obvious potential, such facts are a sad truth and a major disappointment.
With the introduction of the ISL last year, the media and the makers drew further attention to the world’s most popular sport. A number of foreign stars, most of whom had already retired, graced the newly founded league with their presence, but in all honesty, the likes of Robert Pires were only part of a side show. The reality confirmed what many had thought all along; India is probably the biggest untapped market for football. So much so, the average attendance at ISL games surpassed that of the Serie A, Italy’s top flight. For some regions such as Goa, sell-out crowds were the norm. All in all, 1.5 million people attended last season’s ISL games.
The above points out that for football to work in India, a format that can compete with cricket’s IPL has to be created on a permanent basis. Talking about the infrastructure would be stating the obvious, but it could not be more true to say that talent develops better with better infrastructure, not just in football but most other sports. Therefore, if the Indian football authorities are serious about this sport, they have to heavily invest in training pitches, stadiums, youth academies, equipment and more. Given the affiliation of some clubs with European football giants such as Atletico Madrid, one would think that investment will not be a problem. Nevertheless, this will have to be driven by local football authorities that will have to show their willingness to invest in the above.
India is a country with pretty much no football tradition and as such, it is hard to find people with a background in the sport. In other words, it may be a challenge to find the Indian Jose Mourinho out of the blue. What this means for the whole country is that foreign coaching should be encouraged in several footballing areas, not just within the ISL. This will encourage Indians to pursue careers in coaching and will enable them to learn from experienced people.
At Shots & Goals, we believe that India has a bright football future ahead of itself. As a result, we will be running a weekly special on Indian football and will be looking into individual football clubs as well as other areas of football development.