9/15/2018 10:29:21 PM (GMT+3)

Indian football is like a dug up road with multiple diversion signage

Indian football is like a dug up road with multiple diversion signage

So, that was it. India lost its ‘regional power’ tag in Dhaka on Saturday evening.

A defeat in the SAFF Cup final against Maldives showed that all the noise that AIFF creates about the sport’s ‘bright future’ is all but a hollow one.

The 1-2 defeat of the defending champions has also put a question mark on Stephen Constantine’s future as India head coach – 2019 AFC Asian Cup would likely be his last assignment.

Precisely in three-and-a- half years that he has spent his time in the country, the Englishman blabbered more about his experiments but has failed to produce any successful end results.

Whatever methodology Constantine has adopted in his bid to revive Indian football or produce a core team, still lacks panache.

India fielded their U23 squad to test the depth at the SAFF Cup, but sadly their Olympic don’t have the requisite material to be called a quality ‘supply line’ who would bolster the future national sides.

For the national coach, I-League or the local tournaments have lost its priority and ISL remains the only high-profile event from where the players are being picked for the camps.

ISL has not strengthened Indian football – it offers good money to the players, but not quality stuff.

Even after the introduction of hi-tech professionalism and myriad foreign exposure tours for the national teams besides lot of lectures on the grassroots programmes, there’s still a dearth of talent.  

Most aren’t aware how the Indian football system functions – players’ selections and development projects.

Too much involvement by the IMG and their partners has hit the sport hard. Even those former players, who are the helm, hardly has their say in the scheme of things. It’ll be business as usual at the ‘Football House’ – federation’s centre of power and activities in Delhi.

I had said in my previous column, Indian fans must stop following the twitteratis managed by the federation’s social-media team who mislead them to an imaginary world.

There’s a lot of complications in Indian football – 29 states and everyone has its own agenda. While we get to hear on the multiple grassroot works and age-group tournaments, there’s no worthwhile results.

And, wayward policies by the national federation has complicated everything.

AIFF’s development work is like a municipality road that has been dug up with multiple diversion signage. For someone who’s new to the area is bound to get confused to find the right direction but will slowly settle down and accept the system.

Football in South Asia has few takers and, India is not taken seriously by anyone in the continent.

Constantine will continue to brag that he guided the senior team with a qualification to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in UAE next January. But that’s not any yardstick to guarantee India a place among the best teams. Consistency gives a team the respect and Indian football team has only flip-flopped over the years.

It’ll be too much to ask Constantine to galvanise the Asian Cup-bound squad, which lacks conviction and promise. Anything can happen in football, but beating a physically strong side like UAE and Thailand will be an uphill task for Sunil Chhetri and his boys. @mdamins 

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