India and FIFA: Why India Can't Compete
As the 2014 World Cup enters the knockout phase, fans in India will be cheering for their favorite team. There will be one team, however, that they cannot cheer for: India. For a country of 1.2 billion, it baffles many that India cannot field an 11-man team when Costa Rica, a country nearly 250 times less populated can field a team currently in the quarterfinals of the tournament. What prevents India from qualifying?
Interest In Soccer
What makes the Indian case interesting is that interest in India for soccer has never been higher. TV ratings for English Premier League matches have been on the rise over the past few years. The country’s great cricket star, Sachin Tendulkar, even bought a soccer team in India’s domestic soccer league, which features such powerhouses as West Bengal, Kerala and Goa. One would expect that finding talented soccer players would be made easier given both India’s size and its current domestic soccer system. However, the answer may lie in India’s signature sport; cricket.
Cricket or Soccer?
India’s obsession with the gentlemen’s sport may help explain why it has yielded such paltry results in soccer. The sport dominates India. The IPL, cricket’s EPL, draws the best in the world and lucrative sponsorship contracts. Even with Test match defeats abroad, cricket’s TV coverage has stayed high.With all this allure, it’s no surprise that Indian athletes have chosen to play cricket over other sports such as soccer. This is not to say that cricket should be pushed off the Indian stage to make way for other sports; India has turned an elitist sport into that of the common man. However, India’s obsession with cricket has marginalized sports such as soccer, which have gained popularity but not the investment necessary to compete on a national stage with cricket
India is not going to give up cricket anytime in the near or far future; it is the country’s signature sport. However, Indians are starting to follow other sports such as soccer, and the nascent soccer industry is starting to pick up momentum. Whether this means that India will soon qualify for the World Cup remains uncertain. What we do know, for the time being, is that India continues to be the “sleeping giant” of soccer, to quote FIFA head Sepp Blatter.[Image Attribute: pabak sarkar via Compfight cc]