Indian football team will not be participating in Asian Games. IOA chief defends football’s exclusion, says no place for ‘also rans’ .
There is a lot of heart burn among the football lovers in India that IOA has disallowed the participation of Indian National football team to play at the Asian games. IOA has made it very clear that there is no personal vendetta against football and that they are just following the guidelines laid down by the Ministry of sports in 2015. The guideline set by government has specified that “only those teams which have achieved ranking up to eighth among participating countries of the tournaments concerned in the last one year should be considered for participation in the respective tournaments.”
I am sure that government when making these guidelines would have had to make choices based on availability of funds etc. In my humble opinion, we need to revise these guidelines to make sure that sport grows in the country. So What should be the guidelines of participation in Big Events like Asian Games/ Olympics? Here are my 4 inputs on what the guideline should consider:
1. Mass Participation level: If the sport is popular in the country and the participation level at the grassroot level – schools, colleges, academies, coaching centres – is high, then we should participate in the highly visible marquee events such as Asian Games and Olympics. I believe that participation in football in India is very high and that means citizens love the sport and therefore play and follow. And it’s unfair for the govt to deny the national team to grow and deny the opportunity for the “fans”
2. Growth of sport: Is the sport showing improvement in the international level? If yes, the national team of that sport should be participating in the international events. It will give a fillip to the sport. We are seeing tremendous growth of the football in the country. New leagues such as ISL are gaining traction, we held the WorldCup U17 and invested in programs like Mission XI million. By not participating in events like Asian Games, it is massive setback to the growth of the sport especially the efforts by AIFF, ISL and other bodies. By not sending the national team, the message is loud and clear that IOA is not keen/serious about the growth of football in the country. It will give one more reason for young talent (and parents) to move away from sport and take up other sport.
3. De-focus from Winning a Medal: The guideline is based on the performance level to win a medal. Fear of failure is ingrained in us Indians. How will we grow if we live in the fear of failure. If we really want to win medals, we will have to accept failures even humiliating defeats before we start performing well! The team has shown the potential to do well at the international level. The players need exposure at the international level to improve. We don’t have look far, our Cricket team were the minnows in 1983. Thank God we participated.. and we all know the Impact of one great performance!
4. Role Models: The youngsters need role models. Indian role models as well. Messi / Ronaldo is not enough. Watching EPL is not enough. We are demotivating the youth. I dread to think of the conversation between football coaches and their wards. What do you tell a aspiring football player on India not participating in Asian Games. India might lose, but if the boys show the grit and determination to fight on the field, it will inspire young kids. The recent football world cup is a testimony to encouraging up coming teams ! Asian and other new teams did really well. And these teams were an inspiration!
I hope that the ministry revisits the guidelines.