How India can become a soccer nation
India was a big player in Asia in the 50s and 60s, but these days it is only ranked 133rd in the world, largely because cricket has knocked all other sports for six.
“It’s the same as any education program, you need two things: good schools and good teachers. Or, in football terms, good facilities and good coaches. We don’t have enough good facilities and we don’t have a sufficient number of coaches,” says Indian national coach Bob Houghton.
Grass roots development is vital. In New Delhi, the India Youth Soccer Association trained 3,000 potential players in six years, but it is still struggling to convince parents that sport is a viable career.
“The parents in India look at sports as a big risk in this country, because they don’t see the aspiration: ‘Where is my child going to play football and earn a living?’ So a lot of children do drop out at the age of 14 or 15’,” complains Arup Das from the India Youth Soccer Association.
Those children who do persevere find the conditions are abysmal. The infrastructure is poor across the country, with stadiums almost non-existent.
In India cricket may be king, but 20 million people are still watching the World Cup in the country. That is more than in many of the European countries that qualified for the event.