This year, in March, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the deplorable condition of Indian football in his Mann-ki-Baat radio show. “Today our ranking in FIFA is low (163), I feel reluctant to even mention it.” It is May and India is nearing the start of FIFA Under-17 World Cup 2017, an international football tournament India has waited to host for a while.
The tournament is India’s brightest opportunity for a certain ‘roadmap’ of Indian football. So just maybe, for a nation with the largest youth population, predicting its search for daylight in football depends on teenagers shouldn’t be an odd choice.
As part of the build-up to the World Cup, the BJP government launched ‘Mission XI Million’, to make football “the sport of choice in India.” The initiative aims to bring together 11 million children to play football, as part of a “massive school engagement programme”. While the timing of the initiative is evident, its execution will be a major setback; as lack of infrastructure, education and awareness of the sports remain a core problem.
In December 2016, Bank of Baroda joined as a ‘National Supporter’ for the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017. Later on, in March 2017, Hero MotoCorp was announced as a supporter, filling in the second of the six slots presented for the tournament. But with just over four months remaining, the remaining spots are yet to be filled.
Corporate involvement in sports is not as unusual as it may seem. Last year at the Paralympics in Rio, IndusInd Bank came forward to support few of the Indian Paralympians in their bid for international glory. In the past, India has seen the success of Indian Premier League – and more recently, successes of Indian Super League, Pro Kabaddi League and Premier Badminton League – all of these, supported by companies such as Reliance, International Management Group, Vodafone, Vivo, JSW etc. But the lack of it, in India’s build-up to the tournament has been a real setback, with FIFA still struggling to find an Indian company as an affiliate for promoting the tournament globally.
Philippe Le Floc’h, FIFA’s Chief Commercial Officer, asked Indian corporate houses to be a part of the U-17 World Cup back in March. “The benefits of being associated with the FIFA U-17 World Cup are twofold. Firstly, you have the prestige of being associated with a World Cup, the visibility from which will be huge. Secondly, you are also helping football develop in India by supporting youth development in the sport.”
Le Floc’h also mentioned, “To join us as a global affiliate would be the perfect partnership for Indian companies looking to push their products to markets outside of India.”
Though FIFA has been actively promoting the sport across India, there has been no update about interested companies for World Cup U-17’s National Support remaining slots. The government’s ‘Mission XI Million’ has made effective steps to promote football, initiating projects such as ‘Oorja’; with support from not only the sports fertility but also celebrities such as Alia Bhatt and Kangana Ranaut.
Football in India is always an uphill task with the popularity of cricket growing every day. But the Under-17 World Cup 2017 will bring the country’s football sphere and private market a great scope for participation – and possibly, India’s finest chance to introduce itself as a football superpower on the global scale.
(with inputs from Hindustan Times)
About the Author
Balbir Singh Aulakh is a 20-year-old Mass Media graduate, who is an extremely passionate writer about football. He has past experience of covering Indian football for Football Counter as a Sports Correspondent. He is a contributor at TheHardTackle and possesses experience working in electronic and digital media. Based in Mumbai, he aims to pursue his Master’s degree in Public Policy. You can contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author in his personal capacity and do not in any way represent the views of any entity, organisation that the author may have been associated with.
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