Why Indian football is still struggling?

Ivan Vukomanovic, Head coach of Kerala Blasters FC, was recently banned from a match and fined ₹50,000 for criticising the referees officiating the Indian Super League. This has led to widespread discussions on social media about whether Indian football is beyond criticism.

Indian football has witnessed significant progress in the past decade, with FIFA ranking improving from 154th in 2013 to 102nd now. Despite commendable initiatives such as the Indian Super League (ISL), Supercup, I-league, and Vision 2047 by the All-India Football Federation (AIFF), there are persistent challenges hindering the sport’s growth.

One glaring issue is the inadequate infrastructure, as highlighted during the Super Cup in Kerala. Former East Bengal FC coach Stephen Constantine said,“The practice field lacks appropriate lighting, lines are not delineated, and there is no ambulance outside the practice field.” Improved infrastructure is crucial for fostering a conducive environment for player development and high-quality competitions.

While the ISL is considered the premier football league in India, it struggles to attract spectators compared to the IPL. The AIFF must undertake extensive awareness campaigns to engage football enthusiasts. Elevating the profile of Indian football will not only enhance the fan base but also attract more investment and sponsorship.

A recurring issue in Indian football is poor refereeing. Calls for Video Assistant Referee (VAR) or VAR Lite haven’t been heeded to yet. As for player development, the academy system is gradually improving and is producing talented players. Also, clubs are actively conducting camps to nurture young talent.

Arsene Wenger, FIFA Chief of Global Football Development, identified India as a “gold mine” during his visit in November 2023. Vision 2047 aims to make India among the top in Asia. Realising this would require providing the right opportunities and exposure to young talent, and fostering a robust football ecosystem.

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