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Soccer extravaganza

Soccer extravaganza
Highlights

India will return to global football limelight when the FIFA Under-17 World Cup gets underway on Friday. This will help the old-timers to retrace and recall the glory days that lasted till the 1960 Olympics. Of course, this time around, it will not be for achieving anything extraordinary but for hosting the extravaganza wherein prodigious talents and future Peles and Maradonas from 23 countries (I

India will return to global football limelight when the FIFA Under-17 World Cup gets underway on Friday. This will help the old-timers to retrace and recall the glory days that lasted till the 1960 Olympics. Of course, this time around, it will not be for achieving anything extraordinary but for hosting the extravaganza wherein prodigious talents and future Peles and Maradonas from 23 countries (India cannot figure in the list) will set ablaze grounds in six cities with their dexterity.

The much-anticipated event, which runs through till October 28, will kick off at 8 pm with the host taking on USA at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. Thereafter, the host will cross swords with Colombia and Ghana after being placed in a tough group.

Notwithstanding the spotlight that All India Football Federation (AIFF) is likely get, one doubts if India can figure in the latter part of the tournament. Even the most optimistic fan will accept this fact given that the talent that exists all over is hardly world-class, and the country’s pitiable standing adds to the misery.

True, a positive frame of mind is essential in any discipline but there is something called pragmatic evaluation, which sends signals that are not exactly earth-shaking. Indian football lags way behind most of the contemporaries.

One should give credit to the wisdom of the team coach Luis Norton de Matos, who, while appreciating the quality of the players, has stated that a huge gap exists between India and the other contenders. Obviously, for one who has seen them from close quarters since assuming the job seven months back, he is in a position to make perfect comparisons. And he did not mince any words in putting things in their perspective.

With his insistence that this was the ‘first step to the future,’ the master tactician from Portugal has echoed Neil Armstrong’s iconic ‘giant leap for mankind’ salutation. Matos’ words should serve as the perfect inspiration for the young Indians as there would be no mental pressure like it happens when administrators, and even media, talk of the team making it to the knockout stage. Even words like India is the ‘underdog’ could psychologically unnerve the players, who cannot expect any home-advantage.

There is a noticeable difference in approach. Indians were sent on exposure trips to Spain and Germany, which certainly must have bolstered the morale of the players. This comes in contrast to the diligence of Chile, for instance. Supposedly influenced by Chak De! India, the South Americans arrived early to train in Kolkata and get acclimatised to the sultry conditions that will prevail over the next three weeks.

Rather than expecting too much from home-grown players, AIFF would do well if they concentrate on showcasing their organisational acumen. Subsequent to the event, and smarter from the experience, the Federation would be rendering a professional job if it puts in place a viable system whereby Indian football can regain lost glory. To the genuine football lover, though, a feast awaits nearer home.

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