Middle class Indians want the World Cup. No they dont want to develop a soccer culture that truly loves and understands the beautiful game and celebrates its inherent equality. They dont want to push an uncaring and inept state to provide basic facilities for sports at every school and make sports part of of children’s education instead of an ‘extra curricular’ activity. They want to consume the World Cup. Thats right, they want to eat it.
They want to talk about it. They are aching for the gossip stemming from the flings between their future soccer ‘superstars’ and Bollywood ‘actresses’. They want Indian soccer team to be prominent so the news channels can replace news fully with cricket and soccer gossip. The ‘global’ Indian wants to cheer his/her team, preferably at a foreign venue. He/she wants to hang out with his/her dear ‘foreign’ friends and tell them how they have cleared the streets of those odious beggars so they can finally visit.
In his post on the often repeated question, “Why is India not at the World Cup ?” Soutik Biswas tries to take solace in the fact that
“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.”
This ‘solace’ giving fact is in fact one of the principal reasons why India does not have a good soccer team. Indians are not good at soccer because they dont (or dont get to) play teams that are better than them. Why do you think Australia switched from the Oceania division of FIFA to the Asia division ? Soccer is a subtle sport with many intangibles governing who is a good player and who is not, the only way one can improve beyond a certain point is by playing better and better players.
Outsourced entertainment cannot become a national passion. Soccer is a most natural sport and if we look within ourselves, at the millions of kids who are malnourished, at the stifling ‘education’ system and a culture that doesnt have much respect for fitness and exercise, India sucking at soccer (and sports in general) makes perfect sense.
But wait, common we are such a BIG market ! FIFA has to let us in. How dare they not ? We just signed a nuclear deal with America, we are in the big league now. They have to let us in. Arent we an IT superpower ? Damn, it must be some kind of reservations. FIFA should admit countries based solely on merit. The merit of how big your market is.
P.S.: I try and follow the Indian football teams as much as I can. I can tell you that based on results in Asia, the India U-16 and U-19 teams look better than their predecessors. Lets hope for the best.