According to our Sports Minister, Mr. Rajyavardan Singh Rathore, we can soon see India play in the FIFA World Cup, but only if opportunities are created for the players. While we may be a bit suspicious about the ‘when’, the statement obviously is justified. So what do we need to do to see India play in the FIFA World Cup?
Catch Them Young
Most youngsters in India play football for pastime, and that too, starting out only at the age of, say 10 or 12. Abroad, academies train players from the ages of 7 or 8, and make sure they get the basics right. But that can only be done if we have academies in the first place, which brings us to…
Bring Foreign Academies Here
There are already some academies here, but they are very low-key. If the government actually incentivizes building football academies here (low prices of land, long-term deals, concessions on tax, the likes), we could see the likes of Barcelona or Manchester City actually putting their money in finding the next India wonderkid. Or wonderkids.
Play Tougher Games
While most people are happy about India’s climb up the world rankings, the truth is they are not always an accurate version of reality. Many nations know this, and have used it to their benefit; for example, Wales zoomed to No. 4 on the list, courtesy their players as well as a savvy scheduling process, where they did not play international matches at all for months at a stretch, and where they chose their opponents carefully. So, if India can go out and play with tougher opponents, it may be better. Sure, it will hurt to see the 4-0 beatings, but better that than nothing, right?
Exploit the Under-17 Team. Period.
Our Under-17 team, the one which played at the 2017 World Cup for its age group, was the luckiest. They received the best exposure trips, the best management, and were even commended by the senior team players for their display against teams like USA, Ghana & Colombia. The next step is to continue that pattern. If we let this generation go, without letting them play in friendlies, without focusing on each of the players, or without supporting them in any which way, this will be one of the biggest losses for India.