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  ‘With more quality, Indian football will grow’

‘With more quality, Indian football will grow’

| SANDEEP MENON
Published : Nov 8, 2016, 1:15 am IST
Updated : Nov 8, 2016, 1:15 am IST

Sunil Chhetri walked slowly, head bowed, hands clasped in a sign of acute disappointment as he made his way towards the fans at the Suhaim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.

Sunil Chhetri walked slowly, head bowed, hands clasped in a sign of acute disappointment as he made his way towards the fans at the Suhaim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.

His side had just lost the final of the AFC Cup to Air Force Club. It hurt and it showed on the face of Indian football’s poster boy. He had expected, perhaps even demanded, a better result only to fall short in the end.

The pain will last for a while, after all, Bengaluru FC went into the final with the hopes of the entire country on their back. The result, no doubt, was unfavourable but the club’s performance has renewed interest in domestic football. And the biggest compliment for the JSW side is that they made it possible to believe that they could win. They have given hope.

As football in India ventures into the next, and hopefully bigger, stage, the Garden City club is leading the charge and the vanguard always get bloodied.

More important than the result is that the success story comes at the right time: the popularity of the domestic games on a high and the national team has been consistently making new forays over the past 12 months.

Shot in the arm At a time when the Indian federation is struggling to get a grip of their domestic leagues — yes you read it right, two — which has slowly but certainly spiralled out of control, this could well be the shot in the arm for its resurgence.

It should only go forward from here for the country which was once termed ‘sleeping giants of football’ by erstwhile Fifa president Sepp Blatter. Defamed as his name might be now, the significance of the words are no less diminished.

“Perhaps we did not have enough to win the title, but we have achieved a level which has permitted us to see the situation with more enthusiasm. We should not stop. We also have to be honest about the reality. We have a lot of things to do but there is a way to grow and be more competitive,” said BFC head coach Albert Roca after the final.

“We now know, it’s a possibility for Indian clubs to go the distance or for the national team to push Oman till the final whistle but to make it a probability, a lot needs to be done in the indigenous scenes right from league structure to youth development to long term planning and foresight from the clubs.

“There are a lot of supporters here but the games are not at the level that we are currently enjoying in Europe.

“So if we can give them some more quality, Indian football will boom,” reasoned Carles Cuadrat, the BFC assistant manager.

Location: India, Karnataka, Bengaluru