R. K SINHA
It is possible the new generation of India may not be aware that at one time India held a position in soccer. We had won Gold at the Asia Games in 1962 held in Jakarta in 1962. People then called India as Brazil of Asia. During that period Chunni Goswami, P K Banerjee, Jarnail Singh and Thangraj were star footballers of India. Then, Rahim Saheb was chief coach of Indian team. Gradually, we lost our steam and Indian Football was not in command. There were many factors for the decline of Indian football but this is not the right time to discuss it.
But sports lovers have some rays of hope now as Indian football once again is emerging promising a good team; ready to take on foreign team.
India has qualified to participate in FIFA under 17 World Cup Championship from October 6 to October 28 being played in New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Navi Mumbai, Kochi and Goa. Federation of International Football Association or FIFA is one of the most transparent sports bodies. This is for the first time that FIFA is organizing a major event in India.
Sports of commoners
Undoubtedly, the tournament is a big booster for the players of football in the country. It is a new beginning for football that will change the perception about the game in our country. It will not only be inspiring for our young players should Indian team perform well in the tournament but this championship will also bring popularity to the game in the country. Already FIFA World Cup under 17 has generated lot of interest in India. Theme song of FIFA Under 17 World Cup Championship “Kar ke dikhla de goal” has already been released. It has been written by Amitabh Bhattachrya and the composer of the song is music director Preetam. Noted singers and composers like Sunidhi Chouhan, Niti Mohan, Babul Supriyo, Shaan, Papon and Mika Singh have lent their voice to the song.
There is considerable enthusiasm to win by Indian team and Indian fans. Our young players will be in the field without any pressure and are expected to give their best in the matches. The Indian team is doing pre-match practices. Eight players are from Manipur. Surprisingly there is no player from Goa which is considered heart of Indian football. Hopefully, the selectors must have picked up best team for the country. India will play in pool A with United States of America, Columbia and Ghana. India will play its first match against USA on October 6. The next match will be with Columbia on October 9 and then with Ghana on October 12.
Though Cricket is most popular game in India, in some States, football is equally popular. West Bengal, Goa, Manipur and Kerala are States where football is very popular. Mohan Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammadan Sporting are football clubs in West Bengal that are torch bearers of the game in the state. In a way football is part of West Bengal culture.
In Goa, football game started way back in 1883 when an Irish Jesuit Priest Father William Robert Leons made football as a part of school curriculum in Goa. In India football is played since centuries as it is game of the poor.
Goa also has some good football clubs like, Salgaonka, Dempo, Churchil Brothers, Vasco Sports Club and Sporting Club De Goa. It has given many national players for the Indian team like Brhamanand Solawankar, Bruno Kutinho, Moritio Alphons and Robert Fernanndes.
In Kerala, Football was introduced as an sport in 1890 when Bishop Boel, a professor of chemistry in Maharaja University, Thiruwanathapuram encouraged students to play football. By 1930 many football clubs were formed in Kerala. It has also given some great football players to the Indian team.
A small state like Manipur in the North East has its own place in Indian football. As already mentioned in earlier paragraph, the India Under 17 team for FIFA world cup has eight payers from Manipur.
Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi is likely to be present at the opening match of FIFA championship in New Delhi on October 6. Many star footballers, present and past will be there to watch the opening match between India and USA.
(The Writer is a Rajya Sabha Member)
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