The India U-16 team is going to start playing in the Asian U-16 championships on the 4th, their opening match being against (favorites ?) South Korea. I have never gotten to see them play, but I do know that they beat powerhouses Saudi Arabia and the formidable Lebanon comprehensively in the qualifying stages, drawing with (also favorites ?) Iraq. They have been to foreign tours to America, where they annihilated their opposition, and England where they played out a draw with the Manchester United youth team. Malswamfela and Lalrindika (both from Mizoram) are the star players for our team. Malswamfela might miss out on the first few games, which might hurt India’s chances to do well in the tournament.
Indian national soccer teams are more ‘representative’ than their cricketing counterparts, I am not saying that the cricket teams are not, but there are players from more states and regions, esp. the NE. I wonder if the opposition teams are surprised when they see our teams. I dont know about other countries, but here in the US there is extremely strong stereo-typing of Indians. Indians are supposedly all dark-brown, eat ‘curry’ and speak a mysterious language called Indian. Whats more, many of the worshipped NR’I's propogate these misinformations and even try to make money out of it, restaurants like ‘Curry in a Hurry’ , ‘Masala Wok’ and ‘Taj Mahal Palace’ abound here.
But coming back to the topic, if Indian soccer comes up, then we will have the NE ppl and the (non NE) Christians to thank for a lot of it. 10 out of the 24 squad are from these two communities, and together they make up only about 7 or 8 % of the population. No just these young guys, but the senior team has also qualified for the Asian Cup in 2011, and our star player Bhaichung Bhutia is of course from Sikkim.
It seems like certain communities excel at something like a sport or academics, for eg. African-Americans dominate American sports. This is inspite of them only making up 12 % of the population. In the case of the NE, I can understand its geographical location and cultural differences contributing to the emphasis on soccer. But why Christians excel at this sport is something I cant explain easily. I sometimes wonder whether soccer in India would have developed more if states all had their own teams that would compete internationally (like the African teams), of course, that would also open up many other issues. Anyways, our hopes are with these boys, they can bring some cheer amidst all the doom and gloom right now.
This article discusses what exactly Team India needs.
This is how we annihilated some team in America (check out the sweet move at 1:49),