Indian Football: From Under-17 To Adults
About the rise in the rankings, and the under-17 Indian team.
Indian football has emerged into a new day, with a world ranking of 101.
On July 2015, India was placed 156th. Now, in the span of less than 2 years, we have jumped 55 places. Has Indian football then turned a new page?
Not so fast.
In 2015, Wales broke into the top-10 of the rankings — this represented a dizzying ascent for a nation that was ranked a lowly 117th in 2011 (not too far from India’s ranking). Their ascent in the four-year period was nothing short of stunning, but it was aided by some sleight of hand as well. For a seventeen-month period after their 2-0 loss against the Netherlands, they didn’t play a single non-competitive fixture which could have cost them valuable ranking points.
The above article, and others, have hinted that the AIFF has tried to pull off a similar trick. Success however, has to be maintained. No amount of manipulating the system can hide a bad team. The players themselves have to be good, as do the upcoming ones.
Which neatly brings us to the Under-17 World Cup.
One of the first questions that people ask is how many people from the Under-17 setup do manage to make it on the big stage, both for country and club? What seems to emerge is the rise of a few; the 2009 Under-17 cup winning squad from Switzerland starred Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) and Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), while the Nigeria team which won the 2013 edition had Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City) and Isaac Success (Watford). The tournament itself is held every 2 years, with 24 teams. Of the last 5 editions, Nigeria has bagged 3. Admittedly, that has not translated completely on the world stage; heck, they have not even qualified for the last 2 editions of the Africa Cup of Nations.WHO?
As of now, many of the teams participating have not yet qualified; this is because the individual qualifying tournaments from Africa, Europe and the region of North, Central America & the Caribbean will be wrapped up in May.WHERE?
The matches will be held in Goa, New Delhi, Navi Mumbai, Kochi, Kolkata & Guwahati.WHEN?
The tournament begins October 6, and will wrap up on the 28th.
India however, is playing on this stage for the first time (courtesy of being the host nation), missing out on a tournament which had its inception in 1985. For the first FIFA tournament to held in the country, the build-up has had its share of controversies; the coach who had been with the team since 2015 had to resign, the state of the Indian stadiums was a major headache for FIFA, while the question of whether the capital will host India’s matches or not has a different answer from both the AIFF as well as FIFA’s official schedule. Also, we have recruited a new player in the ranks a couple of days ago, a US-based NRI, who will join the team from May. And (for me, one of the biggest gaffes) , the official mascot for the tournament is a clouded leopard ‘Kheleo’. A very well-intentioned action indeed (considering it is neither popular nor numerous). This is the official poster:
This is what our football body came up with.
Leopards have SPOTS! Tigers have STRIPES! Didn’t the AIFF people get complementary JIO connections?!
All said and done, the most we are expecting of our team is to give a proper fight to all the opponents they meet.
PS: If Nigeria’s Under-17 squad is called the Eaglets, will the Indian counterpart be called…the Blue Cubs?