turfFootball had a chat with Mr. Deepak Sharma, secretary of Himachal Pradesh Football Association and here are the major points discussed with him related to Indian Football.
Edited By Abhinav Aditya
Indian FootballIndian Football
Feb. 28, 2021, 12:05 p.m.
India, despite having a population of 1.36 billion, has always been known as a single sport country. But since the turn of the millennium, the sports sector in India has grown considerably. Although Cricket is still the dominating sport in the nation, the growth of other sports like football, badminton and hockey has been heartwarming to watch as an Indian sports enthusiast.
This development can be credited to the efforts of AIFF and the formation of the Indian Super League(ISL). Still, much needs to be done to make India a superpower in football. To further improve participation in football, there is a need to build a culture at the grassroots level through better infrastructure, increased corporate investments, and promotion by the Government. We at turfFootball strive to work for the betterment of Indian Football and recently had a chat with Mr. Deepak Sharma who is the Secretary of Himachal Pradesh Football Association(HPFA). Here are the few topics which were discussed with him:-
Mr. Deepak stated that the biggest problem faced is that of infrastructure. Himachal Pradesh suffers more from infrastructure issues due to terrestrial land. The land to construct a football ground in the mountainous area is minimal due to slopes. Another major problem is the lack of qualified local coaches and trainers in the academies. Foreign coaches cost a lot more than local ones and not every academy can afford to have them.
When asked about the efforts of HPFA to tackle these issues Mr. Sharma said that the association is trying its best to overcome such issues but has found certain red tape from the government authorities holds them back. He said,” After acquiring a piece of land, we have to get a clearance from the government about the nature of the land, whether it is agricultural or industrial and this takes a lot of time. There is a lot of paperwork to be done before the foundation of a football ground is laid. It can take two to two and a half years to construct a football stadium.”
Schools have a major role to play in the sports journey of an individual. Mr. Deepak said that schools have an immense job on their hands to give proper exposure to the student to the game of football. There is a need for proper trainers and motivators at every school who can guide interested students in their journey. Parents should also understand the importance of playing sports regularly. Clubs and academies come at a later stage and they provide even more exposure and better training to the player.
The Covid crisis halted the plans of many across the world and the same was the case with HPFA. The association had planned several regional leagues but they could not conduct them due to the coronavirus crisis and lockdown. In the lockdown, the association tried to reach the youth by video conferencing and reached players all over the state. They encouraged the young minds to play and perform some physical activity in the tough times of lockdown. The main emphasis was laid on kids from the age of 6-10 and the lesson on fitness was provided to them.
India is blessed to have an amazing pool of talent in each and every field and profession. When it comes to football, we as a nation have failed to refine and harvest that talent. Mr. Sharma cited some reasons for it by saying that there is a lack of awareness about the game in the general public. The monopoly of cricket over the citizens has been hindering other sports. He also said that football fans in India focus more on European football rather than Indian football. A feeling of attachment is needed to be developed towards Indian football among the masses.
When India organized the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017 our team was underprepared and there was a lack of support towards the game from the stands. But now the situation is changing and there is a certain buzz about the game in the public. The audience has increased and people talk about the game more regularly than they used to. Mr. Deepak said,” Now at least 400 players come for the trial compared to 40 some years back. This number is steadily increasing and is evidence of a new dawn upon Indian football. I am sure that in the coming years we will see India as a part of the FIFA World Cup.”
Mr. Sharma was critical and had some strong opinions related to the issue of the structure of Indian Football. He said that” Some time ago there used to be a proper structure in Indian Football. Players first had to play district level then state level and if they perform well then at the national level. Based on their performances they would be given chances in the BC Roy or the Santosh Trophy. But ever since ISL came into the scene, all the players have been lured by it and are running towards it while ignoring the structure of the game. This has to be one of the major drawbacks and it has made football a corporate business.”
The U-17 World Cup brought out some positive changes in the landscape of Indian Football and raised eyebrows of the masses towards the sport. The football industry in India has huge business potential, especially in the fields of broadcasting, marketing, and sponsorship deals. Some structural changes are needed so that it can fulfill its potential and India becomes a superpower in the game of football.