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Why is India not at the World Cup?

Soutik Biswas | 11:09 UK time, Friday, 18 June 2010

A Brazil fan in the Indian city of CalcuttaWhy does a country of a billion people with a red hot economy fail to produce a football side which qualifies for the World Cup?

As another edition of the world's greatest sporting event picks up pace, Indian football fans indulge in a familiar ritual of proxy worship. They slip into Argentina and Brazil - their two favourite teams - tee shirts and drape themselves in their flags, paint their icons on walls, and celebrate raucously when their favourite foreign team wins.

India's ranking in world football is a miserable 133. To put this into perspective, Burkina Faso, Benin, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Haiti and Fiji rank higher.

India can take solace in some backbencher consolation that others in its neighbourhood are doing worse: Bangladesh (157), Sri Lanka (159), Nepal (161), Pakistan (165) and Bhutan (196). This is truly the bottom heap of the 202 football playing nations in the world.

It wasn't always like this.

Playing barefoot with reasonable ball skills, India actually qualified for the World Cup in Brazil in 1950 - the only time it has done so. But lack of foreign exchange, the prospects of a long sea journey and an insistence on playing barefoot meant that the team never made it to Brazil.

India even picked up the gold in football in the first Asian Games in 1951, beating a suitably booted Iran by a solitary goal. In 1956, after having put on its boots, India reached the semi-final in Olympics football, the first Asian country to do so. It stood fourth in the tournament. In 1962, India again picked up the football gold in the Asian Games.

Thereafter it was all downhill. India never qualified for the Olympics after 1960. It picked up a bronze in the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok, described by commentators as "the swan song of Indian football".

So why can't a country where a third of its population is under 14 years of age - a nursery of potential footballers - with a long history of club football can't put together 11 young men who can kick ball and take it to the World Cup?Boys playing football in India

There was never a lack of football fans in the country. When I was growing up in Calcutta, the local football league matches played out on rough grounds with rickety stands were packed to the brim. There were football magazines and fan clubs aplenty. Only when World Cup football began beaming live on TV in the mid-1980s we discovered that the gods we had worshipped locally were made of clay.

Regular football leagues take place in at least eight states, but club football in India is pseudo-professional with a strong degree of amateurism.

Also, football, like most things in India, is run by politicians, who have wrested control of most sports - the chief of the football federation now is the federal aviation minister. Lack of professionalism, cronyism, indifference and politicisation is not letting the game thrive, so fans have deserted it to root for their international heroes. Sponsors are indifferent because the quality of the game is appalling.

In retrospect, it would appear that India was never serious about football the way it was about cricket. The All India Football Federation, which runs the game in India, was formed in 1937, but took more than a decade to get affiliated with FIFA, the world's apex football body. India insisted on playing barefoot when other nations were putting their boots on and the game was changing fast.

There have been occasional bursts of hope followed by darkness again. India's only football icon of sorts is a not-so-young player called Baichung Bhutia from the small north-eastern state of Sikkim. He was the first Indian player to sign up with an European Club and had an indifferent three-year stint in the third tier of the English league. Bhutia brought some glamour and respect back to the game in India, but what can one player do? Half a dozen foreign coaches have been hired over the years to whip the national side into a competitive outfit, but nothing much has happened.

So, India, sadly, remains an enthusiastic spectator without a team at the World Cup. As my friend and writer, Indrajit Hazra, quips: "We don't have to paint like Leonardo to appreciate the Mona Lisa. With World Cup football, too, we have mastered outsourcing our entertainment."


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  • 1. At 2:05pm on 18 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    To put the story in perspective, it can be mentioned here that India comes at 176, out of 229 countries so far QUALITY of scientific research is concerned (as of 2008, in all branches of science), as per Scopus database.

    Countries like Chili, Kenya, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Ghana, Fiji, Iran etc has a better quality of average publication (cites per document) as compared to India. Indian’s ranking is steadily falling since 1996, when the database was created.

    In almost every aspect of life (except GDP and per capita income) Indian’s raking is falling. Quality of life for average Indian is deteriorating.
    In some professions inherent dishonesty and lack of effective judiciary is an asset. We are doing well in those areas. But it is not so helpful to build a country, in the long run.

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  • 2. At 00:35am on 19 Jun 2010, I am the Editor wrote:

    Very interesting blog, and a coincidence for me. Tonight I was watching Algeria vs. England, the former a far more energetic and coherent team than the latter. I silently begged Algeria to score, it would have been a fabulous and deserved upset, but I was with English people so had to keep quiet. My friend had cooked some rather good Indian food, and then it occurred to me: Where is India? Where on earth is India. No one in the assembled company had any idea.

    It suddenly made no sense. Slovenia, population 2 million, looks likely to go to the final 16. India, as I have just learnt, is 133rd in the world.

    One thing that surprises me though is that I had thought FIFA did not allow political interference in the national football federations. How does that policy tally with "the chief of the football federation now is the federal aviation minister"?

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  • 3. At 08:57am on 19 Jun 2010, Manoj wrote:

    Living in Europe sometimes is tough because everyone here ask about the Indian football team. It is hard to explain their questions 'why India with large population is not in world cup final?'. This is not only the case but take other sports, Hockey , 'our national game', Tennis, 'Badminton', there is only one women player in Badminton top ten compare to our neighbor China, who has four. In my opinion government should and parents too encourage their child to take sport as a professions but not only to force them go for only education. I strongly feels, the street performers who display great skills in athlete sport can perform better in Olympics if government and sport bodies in Indian pay attention , that not only solve the problem of job but I am 101 % sure they will take our nation athletic level much higher. Sport as a profession may solve job problems and may help to fight against poverty in India.

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  • 4. At 09:11am on 19 Jun 2010, man wrote:

    It is better to compare the quality of scientific research of countries by the H-index (even USA's rank is quite low in terms of citations per document). On this basis, India's rank is 25 compared to 20 for China (USA's rank is 1). What is worrying is that many Asian countries are not far behind and some are overtaking India(such as Singapore in Electrical and Electronic Engineering). Moreover, the reasonable Indian performance is due to a few institutions which have resisted political interference.

    Jay, political interference in India is worse in Science than in football, because the latter to some extent respects merit and is not subjected to much quota/goon Raj.

    It may be interesting to find out why India has done well in cricket despite political interference.

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  • 5. At 09:37am on 19 Jun 2010, shahenshah wrote:

    I rather not blame politicians as much as the horribly boring game of cricket, Indians have been brainwashed to think its fun. To play football all you need is ball and four rocks that will symbolize goal posts. To play cricket, you need a bat a ball wickets, protection, I am sure the cricket industry would be upset people would stop buying cricket materials in favor of ball. Whats also sad is our worship of bollywood stars, in the run up to the world cup instead of doing an Ad with an International Football player they used Bollywood actor John Abraham. IF we want to rise we have to put our concept of hero worship ot the side and belive in excelence and not cronyisim,

    Jai Hind.

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  • 6. At 10:27am on 19 Jun 2010, Rohit wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 7. At 12:24pm on 19 Jun 2010, disen37 wrote:

    me too a great football player in school days,till now i am a good fan to football.... the phrase "we have mastered outsourcing our entertainment" by biswas really reflects the stupid work culture prevails in India and the genetically codes mindset in Indians...they want to sit simply and watch other to play like they do daily in front of computer monitor...dead souls as that of our dead politicians...shame for India with billion people and with zillion fools inside.

    i face a serious discrimination by my class teachers in deciding the team players, they seek academic performance to play the game....rather than a physical fitness.. even the sports teachers are not given proper respect and importance like other subject student, parent and school management..

    The root cause of the less sports enthusiasm is the lack of proper sports education in the regular education system. the fundamental education should give importance/awareness to ALL KINDS OF SPORTS not to cricket alone. it should balance good between Physical education and curricular activities..

    without changing the basic attitude we cannot improve the situation

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  • 8. At 2:18pm on 19 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    @Man. H-index is NOT the ideal parameter to judge scientific output. It has too many loopholes and that why “average citations per publication” is used for that purpose in recent time. If you need I can give you the exact reasons for that.

    Many tend to think that money spent (as % of GDP) is the main criterion to determine quality output. That is not true either, either in sports or in higher education or research.
    Saudi Arab spends 9.5% of its GDP in Education!!!! Norway- 6.8, USA-4.8, India- 4.1; China- 2.2, France- 5.8, Brazil- 3.8 etc ( Data in this regard are contradictory. But one thing is clear: spending on Education (as % of GDP) does not guarantee quality. I think we can find the same trend in games and sports.

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  • 9. At 2:39pm on 19 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    @ Man- The reasonable progress India achieved in few specific areas of science & technology (space and atomic research) are mainly due to few past-generations of scientists (of 1960s). After that it is all downhill. Our present generation of science administrators are not capable to sustain the momentum we ourselves once created. Now ISRO and DAE (dept of atomic Energy that includes BARC) publicly acknowledge shortage of “qualified” manpower. Even our most “successful” knowledge industry, IT, severely lacks innovation. NO C++, JAVA, SAP type basic program have ever been developed or can be developed in India, by Indian technocrats. We mainly use existing technology to solve customer specific problems (mainly maintenance jobs). Published reports shows that “India is among the least innovative countries in the world”: Those kids who were brought up and educated during Indira Gandhi’s era are now decorating the higher positions.

    When a society rots, the smell can never be confined to few areas of life but present in almost every aspect there, be it games and sports or science. Our current system selectively discards talented kids and promote private tuition and coaching enabled, mugging-up grade “good students” who are great to do routine jobs (as in IT or BT) or imitating others (as in research and sports) but NOT capable to do anything original. This is true for science and sports alike. As a result, India has its fair share at junior level international competitions but we invariably lose them when they grow up.

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  • 10. At 2:42pm on 19 Jun 2010, lokabandhu wrote:

    India is still quite backward in many respects.Lack of a world class football team is just one of them.It however does not seem to be a great deficiency compared to the huge price the poor in the country pay to a deeply corrupt bureaucracy every day for survival.

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  • 11. At 3:50pm on 19 Jun 2010, Ananya78 wrote:

    @ Jay: It's interesting that you make the point about how all pervasive social "rot" can lead to a decline in all walks of life, including sports. But if that were entirely true, Jay, how come poorer, more corrupt societies torn asunder by civil war, political venality and corruption (Haiti, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Cameroon are some examples) are either star football playing nations or are ranked much above India, as Soutik shows. So lack of sporting proficiency must have to do with a host of other reasons, which have nothing to do with falling values and a general societal rot.

    I feel that as India has always been a feudal, anti-poor society, games like football traditionally were associated with the pooor and the common man were neglected. Football was seen as a downmarked, low class sports. Look, we promoted cricket which was essentially a colonial import played originally by the well to do. We have produced champions in rich sports like shooting (Ahinav Bindra, rich son of a business magnate with a shooting range at home), badminton (Prakash Padukone was upper class), chess (Vish Anand), tennis (a very upper class sport -Sania Mirza, Leander Paes, both very well to do backgrounds). Also, we have produced champions in individual, non-team sports which don't require the backing of a system. In team games, outside cricket - where also our achievements are disproprtionate to the hype and money put into the game - we fail miserably because the system doesnt back the games.

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  • 12. At 4:54pm on 19 Jun 2010, Eastvillage wrote:

    I have worked on Bollywood films here in the USA and the Indians on the crew would say that Indian men as a whole are not athletic, it is not something they value. Personally I think diet plays a role here.

    You could see it on set: The Indian film stars were big ,strong athletic young men and women. Most of the Indian crew was quite small and thin.
    I can see why they worship their stars and why they are no good in football.

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  • 13. At 4:56pm on 19 Jun 2010, Eastvillage wrote:

    Good post, Ananya78!

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  • 14. At 4:58pm on 19 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    Nice observation Ananya78. Yes, football is traditionally associated with poorer section of the society. In case of many poorer nations lack of opportunity forces many people take up sports like long distance running (overwhelmingly dominated by sub-Saharan African countries), football etc which does not require much costly equipment and training. Later those talents are picked up by other developed nations and groomed. Majority of African footballers are regular player in famous football clubs worldwide (mainly in Europe). EASY, PERMANENT IMMIGRATION FOR COMMON CITIZENS FROM THOSE POLITICALLY DESTABILIZED, CRIME INFESTED COUNTRIES FACILITATE SUCH MIGRATION WHICH IS NOT THE CASE FOR INDIA. SO ASPIRING FOOTBALLERS FROM INDIA DO NOT GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO MIGRATE TO ITALY OR FRANCE OR UK DURING THEIR TEENS AND FLOURISH THERE (then join Indian national team during international sporting events like Olympics or world cup).

    As you rightly pointed out, few successes of Indian nationals in individual sports like badminton, tennis, shooting, (even swimming) etc are from (economically) upper class families and got costly and extensive training abroad. Such people also have “proper connections” to get selected for national team. The same way, students from mainly highly privileged background get fellowship/studentships (like Rhodes, felix, In-lacks, Nehru-Cambridge, commonwealth, Fulbright etc) selected by Indian selectors, (mostly) not on personal achievements (academic), but mainly on personal connections. No wonder, we hardly get any scientists of international quality from that lot (e.g SN Bose, Homi Bhava etc).

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  • 15. At 5:13pm on 19 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    And after getting (read- purchasing) such a heavy weight degrees from abroad, besides family connection (for which they got the scholarship/fellowship in the first place), such candidates have no problem to get higher positions in our universities and institutes. And the cycle continues.

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  • 16. At 7:28pm on 19 Jun 2010, BakedBeans wrote:

    Football is a boring game.Just kicking the ball around.That is it.

    1.How many people who have commented here actually played football ?
    2.authtor should tell us why Brazil never plays cricket ?

    Give me cricket any day ..

    Ind vs PAk match like today beats any game in the world.


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  • 17. At 7:37pm on 19 Jun 2010, BakedBeans wrote:

    >>>Why is football-mad India not at the World Cup?

    from when India was mad about foot ball ? do not write about something which does not exist..

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  • 18. At 8:17pm on 19 Jun 2010, Mahatma of Great Britain wrote:

    I echo the sentiment of BakedBeans there. To me, football's nothing more than bunch of grossly overpaid and highly underskilled (read England) adult-looking men in their shorts kicking about a ball for 90 min. However, cricket's more of a grown-up men's game, a gentleman's game.

    Just look at the yobbish character you've in football, foul-mouthed yobs who does the over-the-top wild celebration for scoring a single goal, showing an absolute disrespect to referee's authority, always involving in argument and altercation with opponents and/or referee. As if the players themselves weren't enough, even managers/coaches join in to showcase their ludicrous behaviour.

    While in cricket, all we often witness is a humble acknowledgement by raising a bat when scoring 50/100 runs. Even the cricket quotes from post-match cricket presentation, they way players talk reflects their intelligence and often an amazing sense of humour, which is in stark contrast to what we hear in post-match football presentation.

    By the way Biswas, India doesn't have a football team as the nation's cricket crazy and/or football minority doesn't get as much attention, politically or commercially, as cricket does. China or USA doesn't have a cricket team even if they're most populace and 3rd most populace countries, respectively and I don't see India needs to be questioned about the absence of her football team.

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  • 19. At 11:35pm on 19 Jun 2010, Dazzy88 wrote:

    "we discovered that the gods we had worshipped locally were made of clay."

    Author is a Hindu basher now?? trust the BBC to employ an Indian that has no regard about Indian culture. BBC has displayed an anti Hindu / anti India bias for far too long.

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  • 20. At 11:30am on 20 Jun 2010, Ahsan Rizvi wrote:

    I think football has never been so popular in sub continent.I think that people generally like to watch the good football but as far as football fervour is concern it was never there in the subcontinent but i am pretty much sure that if India or Pakistan will start taking it seriously they can produce good teams but we should not exaggrerate something which is not true that India has never been a football crazy nation.

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  • 21. At 1:32pm on 20 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    I am not sure how old are those people are who think India never has/had a craze of football. In my teens we saw more madness about football in India than what we see today about cricket, as Sautik also indicated. Football was also used as a tool to organize movement for independence against British rule, at least in few states, e.g Bengal. Glory in cricket does not prove world supremacy as handful of nations (mostly ex-British colonies) play that; but football’s appeal is much, much wider.

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  • 22. At 3:55pm on 20 Jun 2010, keralavarma wrote:

    Competitive Football was being played in the metropolitan cities in India in the 1950s and 1960s because there was sponsorship of the corporates. Besides the game was popular in the Southern States of Kerala, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Andhra etc and in States like West Bengal and to some extent in the North East. The improvement in the standards of international football were missed in India as school level football lacked encouragement. Even Indian Railways, Services and other public sector enterprises did not promote the game. More people shuld play the game rather than watch the game. Alas, a case of unwillingness to get into the rough and tumble of the game by the young has not helped standards of football in India !!!

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  • 23. At 4:48pm on 20 Jun 2010, BluesBerry wrote:

    Well, to tell you the truth, when I think of India, I think about cricket.
    FIFA Football and India do not readily join in my mind.
    National Indian Couch, Bob Houghton, has said that India should apply to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
    Good idea on the right track, but alas, too late for 2022. FIFA has closed the bidding for the 2018 & 2022. A final decision will be made in December 2010.
    That being acknowledged, India should bid 2026 & 2030 FIFA World Cups.
    It would appear that the 2022 World Cup, will go to an Asian nation; so, India would have a better chance for 2030.
    Also, India needs the time to organize & prepare infrastructure.
    India needs to establish herself as a “host” nation. The October, 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi will be a crucial test. If all goes well, India can follow the trail of path-setter South Africa. e.g. South Africa hosted the Rugby and Cricket World Cup’s before now going to host the football World Cup.
    Earlier this year India hosted the hockey World Cup, and next year India hosts the cricket World Cup.
    In order for India to come together re football, it must establish the necessary infrastructure & organization.
    India hosted the 2006 AFC Under-20 Championships in Kolkata and Bangalore – a stepping stone towards the biggest Asian event, the AFC Asian Cup. The 2015 AFC Asian Cup seems to be heading for Australia, but there’s always 2019.
    At least India needs to bid to host the Asian Cup. This would start the football infrastructure construction & organization.
    And what will follow that: Football enthusiasm on a new and profound scale!

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  • 24. At 5:39pm on 20 Jun 2010, Ananya78 wrote:

    @Bluesberry: You will be surprised at the existing football enthusiasm in India. We dont need to host a World Cup to ramp up interest levels in football. Many youngsters in schools today hate watching cricket, and are glued to the European league football. World Cup merchandise like tee shirts are selling very well in India, despite their high prices (Rs 2000 for a kiddie Argentina tee shirt!) As Soutik rightly said, India is the largest spectator nation for football. Recent cricket tournaments like Asia Cup (ongoing) and some stupid series in Zimbabwe were largely ingored by cricket fans. Also I sense a feeling of frustration with Indian sports fan as they have nothing to turn to apart from cricket, and our team, for all the hype and money, hasn't won a World Cup since 1983. So if we are able to raise standards of football in the country and start performing well internationally, a lot of fans will move to supporting football as their favourite game. Especially, among the young, football is a growing favourite. The time to strike is now! But who will bell the cat.

    And those who say that football is a low, shallow game and cricket is superior, I can only say that cricket isnt even played by a tenth of nations playing football. That settles the case for football!

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  • 25. At 5:41pm on 20 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    No one really expect India to improve its standing in any sports by hosting any international event. The latest example is Commonwealth games. That only sends a very bad but true image of our country. Only few politicians, contractors, concerned industrial houses gain from such events, not the sports. We have seen that for 1982 Asian games in Delhi and now for Commonwealth games. To sustain any development of the game one need to strengthen the grassroot level grooming. Indian cricket can never be successful for long if we neglect domestic events and competitions like Ranji. Sports Authority of India was established with much fan fare and lot of high hopes. But we all now know that it ended with the usual result (as in recent IPL), lot of promise but almost no SUSTAINABLE output.
    In smaller towns and villages there is hardly any scope for parents to provide decent infrastructure for any games and sports even for the willing parents. Even in bigger town, such facilities are limited to only few, restricted people (with money and connections). How many willing players can join Kolkata club (where Leandder Paes practice) to get decent facility for Tennis? Only selected people from a selected class of population can avail and afford that.

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  • 26. At 5:55pm on 20 Jun 2010, Jay wrote:

    In fact, so much noise about Indian cricket is not having much substance either. Indian cricket started making so much hullah in international arena when Indian subcontinent (mainly India) became the main financial powerhouse in world cricket, which roughly coincides with Jagmohan Dalmiya’s presidential tenure at ICC. That attracted so many powerful players, not only from business-industrial houses but also powerful politicians to the game (more precisely to control the finance of the game). But at NO point of time Indian cricket ever achieved undisputed leader of world cricket even for one single year (leave alone few consecutive years), the way Australia (in recent past) or West Indies (few decades ago) enjoyed. Now if you consider allegations of betting (not only against cricket law makers/business lobbies but also against many influential players), amount of money involved in the game, amount of influence of Indian corporate and political establishment (and we all know how corrupt they can be) and its interest to promote Indian cricket to maintain their financial interest/profit, and moreover, the recent IPL fiasco; the situation does not look so bright for even cricket in India.

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  • 27. At 6:34pm on 20 Jun 2010, bhasinusc wrote:

    Red Hot Economy???.Hmmmm........Sure does not seem like a Red hot economy for the over 80% of "Middle class Indians" in Cities who are struggling to eke out a living with Food and vegetable price increasing faster than 20% every three months.
    Where Cities have become dust bins of garbage, dust, pollution, traffic and people. Where you cannot cross 10 metres without stepping on a dirt of dung or on fellow Indian.

    Like someone said earlier, Parks in India are only occupied by the forgotten Old men of India and by the anti-social elements making their latest MMS clip (The content of which I dont want to discuss).

    Or go and ask out the people in Villages of India where more than 800 Million Indians live. Where our Farmers are continueusly committing suicides after being frustrated at eating mud and insects and having no more food to eat. Where our children have malnoutrition many times worse than sub-saharan africa.
    I dont blame the Indian rural people becoming Maoists or Communists since they have been denied human existence by the elites of the country.

    This red hot economy of India should and will NEVER produce a team for the World cup finals Mr. Biswas.

    Oh and wait for the next 5 more years and you will see the Red-hot economy of the Software industry go down the toilet when the Recession hits the west again.

    Then it will be a scene to watch when the Mcdonalds burger eating Urban folks wont have the stamina or tolerance that a typical Indian rural farmer has to sustain.

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  • 28. At 7:56pm on 20 Jun 2010, BakedBeans wrote:

    2.>>>>I can only say that cricket isnt even played by a tenth of nations playing football.

    football is cheap sport.

    3.In my teens we saw more madness about football in India than what we see today about cricket

    this is 2010 not 1934.

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  • 29. At 8:06pm on 20 Jun 2010, BakedBeans wrote:

    >>>Especially, among the young, football is a growing favourite. The time to strike is now! But who will bell the cat.

    Name me some British Asian footballers who play in epl then we will talk about

    "football is a growing favourite" blah blah

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  • 30. At 01:58am on 21 Jun 2010, ninetofivegrind wrote:

    Why is India not at the World Cup?

    Um, they didn't qualify?

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  • 31. At 04:12am on 21 Jun 2010, Ananya78 wrote:

    >>>Football is a cheap sport

    Being cheap to play has nothing to do with popularity. By that logic golf should have been the world's most popular sport. Amazing logic!! Ha!

    >>Name me some British Asian footballers who play in epl then we will talk about

    What have British Asian footballers go to do with revival of football in India? Brilliant.

    >>this is 2010 not 1934.

    How does he know that respondent was a teenager in 1934? When you fail to argue, indluge in innuendo, because innuendoes come cheap..

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  • 32. At 04:37am on 21 Jun 2010, djavous wrote:

    The way I see it is football/soccer doesn't ring a bell in India.Except in a few states most notable of them West Bengal; Indians don't follow football much.Although English Premier League is being followed increasingly in India among certain affluent middle class kids.So it may take a lot more years before a well known global soccer player emerges.

    And let's face it parents put too much pressure on their kids when it comes to matters of study.Why spend hours running around when so much studies can be done in that time.Parents spend a fortune on "private tuitions" and a typical grade 12 student in India is bursting with all kinds of information and in reality much of it will be of no use when they actually begin their first jobs.But because of the competitive nature of things there isn't an easy alternative.One has to sit for cut throat competitive exams be it for higher studies or prospective jobs.

    And if you really really are going to waste time playing with a ball and not studying then why not play with a ball AND a bat.At least there's mind boggling money in it if you make it.Or if books are really not your thing (after forcing you to study for all those years with miserable results) then why not learn to sing or dance.Who knows with all the TV channels you could end up with something .Maybe even get to work in a Bollywood flick and make mind boggling money.
    But Sonny(BETA) running around with a round leather ball will really get you nowhere.

    At the end of the day its about priorities I guess.And most Indians like you said are quite happy and comfortable draping themselves in other countries flags and cheering for their "adopted" soccer country.Its only soccer.We are not talking about real sports here are we?
    You were saying something important about that upcoming India vs Australia series?Now that's what I'm talking about "Yaar".

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  • 33. At 05:51am on 21 Jun 2010, kenrod1000 wrote:

    Why India is not in the World Cup? Let us count the ways:

    1. No infrastructure. Where are the fields to play in? Street urchins practicing on the sidewalks won't produce champions.

    2. Vegetarian diets or non-existent diets.

    3. No team mentality. While cricket is a team sport it is a total of individual performances. Football need coordinated thinking. In India where the Bengali detests the Gurkha, the Punjabi sneers at the Sindhi, and everyone makes fun of the Sardar, can we ever come together as a team?

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  • 34. At 11:21am on 21 Jun 2010, BakedBeans wrote:

    >>>Being cheap to play has nothing to do with popularity. By that logic golf should have been the world's most popular sport. Amazing logic!! Ha!

    Cheap is not always money. Widen your view.

    >>>How does he know that respondent was a teenager in 1934? When you fail to argue, indluge in innuendo, because innuendoes come cheap..

    This is called reasoning obviously football players and fans are not known for it.Read his verbatim.

    >>>What have British Asian footballers go to do with revival of football in India? Brilliant

    Football was never popular so what are you on about reviving when it was not there at first instance.

    Why that Britain has lots of Brit Asian cricketers than Brit Asian footballers? Is it because Asians play more cricket than football where ever they go? Football is no1 sport in Britain .Why there are no British Asian footballers? Is it just because they are not interested in football or an institutional thing.

    I would replace this article with khabadi.why other countries do not play khabadi
    Khabadi is a team sport which invloves kicking ,pushing,pulling much like football .

    .Go figure .

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  • 35. At 2:01pm on 21 Jun 2010, jaytirth wrote:

    National interest in a sport is cultural phenomenon. Politics, if at all, plays a very minor role in it. Cricket in India has had it's share of scandals including the match fixing scandal yet the popularity of the sport is increasing exponentially. India is a nation of paradox. It is good in some sports not even closely related to it's culture. Cricket is a rich man's sport and very few Indians afford all the accessories required. It has large number of illiterates yet has produced chess champions. We excel in tennis doubles but not so much in singles. We are good in billiard which again is a costly game.

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  • 36. At 06:50am on 22 Jun 2010, Prithvi wrote:

    People who've been saying that football is not important and nobody is bothered it about forget an important fact. Football isn't the only sport we are suck at(which is one of the reasons why it isn't as popular as cricket).

    Look at the Olympics for example, it took us more than half a century to win an individual gold medal and on most occasions a couple of bronze a a silver (if we are lucky) is all we can lay claim to. In most events, our athletes do not even manage to clear the qualifying rounds let alone win medals. We suck at most sports and while I personally like cricket, I find our abysmal sporting heritage appalling. We can't obviously ignore everything we aren't good in, the facts won't go away because we don't like them.

    This mind numbing bias towards cricket has served to sideline every other sport in this country, and it is not as if results of the Indian cricket support such devotion. One world cup victory more than 25 years ago, a T20 victory which proved to be a false dawn and bench strength which looks like it will be the laughing stock of the cricketing world in the coming years.

    I wonder what would've happened if some other sport received even half the support that Cricket did? I am sure we would see a lot of improvement (especially if we instituted a proper talent hunt across the nation).

    I also agree with the author of the article regarding politics mixing with sport. Some of the heads of Indian sporting bodies rule these organisations like its their personal fiefs, for life. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely methinks. Where is the accountability for India's lack of sporting success? Why do these people continue to govern when they have failed repeatedly? If performance isn't an indication of their incompetence, what will then suffice?

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  • 37. At 09:00am on 22 Jun 2010, arahul wrote:

    Hi Sautik:
    Perhaps you should take a look at this link to bareall the barefoot story:

    Cheers !!

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  • 38. At 09:40am on 22 Jun 2010, bbcmani wrote:

    Just let India concentrate on IPL, corruption and politics and making rubbish indian bollywood love films. A canadian punjabi radio raised funds for kits for the Indian Olympic team and paid for Keshavan's old luge which was held together by duct tape and screws and that broke during training. It just shows India has no shame whatsoever. If they do have a world cup football team and the rich actors and actresses obivously cannot afford to raise funds for their uniform then i do have a pair of used Umbro football boots i can donate because i don't them to play bear footed.

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  • 39. At 11:31am on 22 Jun 2010, arbj wrote:

    I agree with bakedbeans, the author should ask why Brazil or USA does not play cricket

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  • 40. At 4:48pm on 22 Jun 2010, acenavigator wrote:

    The thing which grows fastest in India is the population. Whatever gains made in the economy will easily get negated by the rapid growth of the population in this country. We seem to address all issues from degradation of environment, corruption and football except this core issue, from which springs all the problems for this country.

    Any problem faced by India if dug deeper will reveal tremendous population growth as the primary culprit. Instead of addressing this issue, trying to better the poor performance of India in various fields is like treating the symptoms rather than the disease.

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  • 41. At 8:09pm on 22 Jun 2010, ThinkingRunner wrote:

    IMHO, the complete absence of organized sports in schools and a total lack of fitness consciousness and education among the youth in India are the primary reasons for our poor showing in international sport. Strangely, physical activity, fitness, and athleticism are not given pride of place; on the contrary, they are often mocked. Add to this the brainwashing by the cricketing industry - a colonial hangover of a game that only about 15 nations play. No wonder we rank near the bottom of the global sporting arena (note "global", not "Commonwealth" or "ex-colonial") - be it football or the Olympics. The few victories invariably come in non-athletic events such as shooting, or chess.

    Blaming poverty, corruption, and population is taking the easy way out. Even poverty-stricken, corrupt, hyper-inflated, on-the-brink-of-civil-war Zimbabwe won more medals at the previous Olympics than India. And while I don't follow cricket too closely, I seem to remember reading that they defeated powerhouse India a couple of times recently.

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  • 42. At 04:38am on 24 Jun 2010, ninetofivegrind wrote:

    39 arbj:

    "I agree with bakedbeans, the author should ask why Brazil or USA does not play cricket"

    Because Brazil was never a British colony so never had the game introduced by its colonial overlords, Portugal and the US has baseball which is equally as boring and a waste of time as cricket is.

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  • 43. At 9:20pm on 24 Jun 2010, kenrod1000 wrote:

    The question is why India plays cricket? It's a colonial sport. We spend so much time and energy changing the names of the cities to eliminate any thought of colonialism, and then we pick up cricket. While both soccer and cricket were invented by the British, cricket essentially typifies the colonial mentality. The giant luxury of time of a 5 day test match... the spotless white uniforms... the high tea drama at 3 o'clock.

    The USA had the Boston Tea party and threw the Brits out. While they play some soccer and entered the World Cup with a team, they refuse to incorporate the game into their seasons. "It's a reminder of the European days and we want nothing to do with it. We will invent our own games like Am Football and baseball," most Americans say.

    1947 Independence happened but we're still a satellite of the west. Bombay may have been changed to Mumbai but as long as we play cricket, we're British.

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  • 44. At 01:09am on 25 Jun 2010, ninetofivegrind wrote:

    43 kenrod1000:

    "The USA had the Boston Tea party and threw the Brits out. While they play some soccer and entered the World Cup with a team, they refuse to incorporate the game into their seasons."

    I'm guessing you've not heard of 'Major League Soccer'? It's the US pro soccer league that plays every season in the US. David Beckham plays for the LA Galaxy in that league.

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  • 45. At 07:28am on 25 Jun 2010, kenrod1000 wrote:

    Yes Nineoffivegrind, MLS does exist but it doesn't have a season of it's own. Baseball starts in March and goes to October. American Football then picks up in October and runs to February. Basketball also runs from October to June. So soccer is kind of a misplaced orphan especially watched by the illegal Mexicans. The local Spanish much prefer baseball. When Boston had a tea party, they meant business.

    Yes they did try to recruit Beckham but his wife was more popular than him. He finally had to go back to Europe to play. Good riddance to expensive rubbish.

    My point is India should take up a sport like international soccer, or field hockey, or basketball, that has no colonial vestiges. At least soccer is an international sport even though the Yanks want nothing to do with it. Cricket is so limey, quintessentially English, and reminds us of our bondage over the last 400 years. Personally, I love it when the spin bowlers come and dominate the pitch. But politically, I'm with Gandhi who refused to buy British salt and marched to the sea to make it. India should win a World cup... not in cricket, but in soccer.

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  • 46. At 1:17pm on 25 Jun 2010, Philip wrote:

    India and football does not seem to stick. Even among the third and forth generation descendants of Indian immigrants in the UK the number of good football players is very small indeed. I can not name any top Asian player in the Premier League, nor the Championship in England. Nor are they taking up spots in the national rugby teams. Cricket, yes, but that is a game and not a sport.

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  • 47. At 12:35pm on 26 Jun 2010, shyam77 wrote:

    To BakedBeans ;
    i think you lack the reality my fren. Football is No. 1 Sports in Asia. You should say south Asia rather whole Asia. I am from Nepal ...... here majority of people love Football. During World Cup Football street of kathmandu is very silent. People sleep at office, pub and in street people gather to watch Game at big Projector. They all talked about KAKA, Christiano Ronaldo, Fabiano, Robinio, Maradona (Coach), Messi etc. Shout and Cheers during game. People gather different places and communities. They watch in TV. During game no Movie, no TV Serials and No Cricket. Football is No. 1 sports Here in Nepal even we are so closed to India.

    Cricket is also good game i like it and played it and played Football as well but what i can say is Football is Football no Comparision. Whole World play Football thats why it is Global Game. Even Cricket Giants Nation such as Australia, England , New Zealand and South Africa Play Football and More Popular than Cricket there. So what's wrong with India.

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  • 48. At 6:56pm on 26 Jun 2010, Dr Subhash Das wrote:

    Quite an interesting article.Eye opener as well as eye closer (due to tears, of course!).
    Maybe we should have participated in the 1950 edition of the World Cup football.We didn't even give lady luck a chance.
    Maybe we should not have won the 1983 World Cup Cricket, or even the first edition of twenty-twenty cricket world cup.
    Perhaps, maybe perhaps, then today we would have cheered our own team in this mother of all games and we would not have introspected on this issue at all.

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  • 49. At 4:21pm on 27 Jun 2010, SpookyPilchard wrote:

    India can only play asian games and not international. For e.g cricket, which is an asian game, but ironically called international. compare the list of countries that play football and cricket. we should confine ourself to playing cricket (which we dont do well again) but managing to pull the show, as the obsessed people of india follow it irrespective of the teams horrible performance...another example lets take olympics, look at te state of a nation which has a billion people? wew are more like frogs within the well who failed to see beyond India as far as sports is concerned.

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  • 50. At 6:26pm on 27 Jun 2010, 1949khaleel wrote:

    There was comment from the higher ups in the US administration that the Afghan war was not going as planned. I would like to comment no invader was able to conquer the Afghans right from the Mughals, the Russians and now the Americans alongwith NATO forces have not succeeded. It is time the Afghans are left alone and in this barren country nothing but opium grows and the people make living out of it. Don't ban the production but try to regulate it and by buying their opium crop for medicinal and other useful purposes.

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  • 51. At 10:48am on 28 Jun 2010, P J Walton wrote:

    Please don't take offense anyone, but look at the composition of of India's national football team. Most of the players have similar names to your domestic servants. A lot of Indians are just too status and class conscious to ever cheer for their own national football team. By contrast the cricket team is composed of much more acceptable names and origins. By the way, one of India's leading players, Sunil Chhetri plays his football with Kansas City Wizards in the US Major League Soccer! Did anyone know that?

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  • 52. At 1:50pm on 28 Jun 2010, Gustavo Caracante wrote:

    I would say that culturally, India is inline to other sports. Anyway, I want to be like them! FIFA, an entity of the first world, in the game Germany v England showed that acts like a third world country. Pretending not to see certain, very wrong things, during the game, is more concerned with their little "colonels", thinking only in profit, elections, power .... How can I enjoy a sport that runs away from the idea to prove what is right? How can I believe in an entity that supports its field representatives, and do not believe in technology? Why not smart chips to show that the ball, actually went in goal? Some, like Dunga, approve´s, on the pretext that this is "real" football, reasons to generete debate, anger. I do not believe that. I think FIFA could have the same public debate, attention, on the escalation of the teams, how to play, the attack, the defense ... and so on. And Mexico? What to say of the first Argentine goal? I think I'll move to India, and try to learn not to like football!

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  • 53. At 2:16pm on 29 Jun 2010, JusticeForAll wrote:

    First of all India is somewhat like EU at present. Thanks to the British who merged all small nations to form India in order for their easy administration.

    Due to mockery policies of the successive North Indian Hindi dominated corrupt regimes, Indians are divided than ever before. When more and more Indians are educated and literate, the seperatist demand from different races and communities will haunt India.

    Indian leaders are power hungry and despite they cannot solve their current problems including population mess they want to occupy Kashmir and terrorize the muslims.

    India is full of corruption and unspeakble other activities. Why do someone want to tarnish the image of Soccer? It is good that India is not in the world cup!

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  • 54. At 2:56pm on 30 Jun 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    And why is China not at the World Cup?

    [a country of 1.4 BILLION people]

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  • 55. At 4:09pm on 02 Jul 2010, Liliput wrote:

    The simple reason is that, Indians have neither the physical nor the mental or cultural abilities required for WC level football. Wealth or intellectual abilities are not relevant here. That's why, Indians fail where even desperately poor African countries succeed !

    Even Asian countries like Japan or the Koreas make up for their physical lackings (height etc)to some extent, through their mental and cultural (which supports and nourishes their mentality)strengths. Indians ignominiously fail in that score too. This is why the East Asians have a far better record in the Olympics too. Olden Indians used to suffer in self-pity and defeatism, whereas the modern Indians (especially the politicians and the educated elite/upper middle class)tend to talk too much and bathe in narcissistic self-glory and self-aggrandizement than bother about real work like the East Asians.

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  • 56. At 02:01am on 05 Jul 2010, ninetofivegrind wrote:

    54 powermeerkat:

    "And why is China not at the World Cup?

    [a country of 1.4 BILLION people]"

    I'd hazard a guess and say their team failed to qualify. But never fear Mr Kat, you'll be pleased to know that the Chinese topped the medal table at the last Olympics - ahead of the US.

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  • 57. At 4:33pm on 07 Jul 2010, D wrote:

    12. At 4:54pm on 19 Jun 2010, Eastvillage wrote:
    I have worked on Bollywood films here in the USA and the Indians on the crew would say that Indian men as a whole are not athletic, it is not something they value. Personally I think diet plays a role here.

    You could see it on set: The Indian film stars were big ,strong athletic young men and women. Most of the Indian crew was quite small and thin.
    I can see why they worship their stars and why they are no good in football.


    Really i know of three including myself, world downhill riders, my son is captain of a league football team and i have a friend who is european kickboxing champ, so lets think all rich in india chunky and poor thin, wait einstein could it be lack of free time and working their fingers to the bone, asians in europe are equal to any of their counterparts! why so many asians in england cricket and no blacks???

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  • 58. At 00:45am on 08 Jul 2010, kenrod1000 wrote:

    In soccer you don't have to be tall or muscular. In fact it could be a liability. Look at Maradonna of Argentina who is 5'1", or Pele of Brazil. Maradonna scored the most famous goal past 5 English defenders all bigger than him.

    For that matter, Indians have been known for their strength in the past. With wrestlers like Dara Singh they used to dominate the pits. Also, Indian push-ups are known to be the more strenuous kind.

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  • 59. At 10:23am on 12 Jul 2010, zambian wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

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