A historic occasion

I want to wish this team, the staff and the AIFF all the best for what I am sure will be a cracker of a tournament. Let’s all pull and push together to give Indian football the chance it deserves.

“The Indian lads will need to play their best if they want to extend their stay in the tournament. I’m sure they are already well aware of this, but it’s important that they don’t play with any sort of pressure,” says the columnist.   -  PTI

It’s here. Very soon, for the first time an Indian team will take the field in a football World Cup. And I can’t stop talking about it. While I have no shame in admitting how jealous I am of this squad and the opportunity they have, I am equally proud about the fact that the nation will have a representation at a World Cup for the first time in our history.

READ: U-17 World Cup: hoping for buds and blossoms!

We are in a group with very strong opponents in USA, Colombia and Ghana and the lads will need to play their best if they want to extend their stay in the tournament. I’m sure they are already well aware of this, but it’s important that they don’t play with any sort of pressure. Yes, they are the first Indian team to play in any World Cup, yes they (we) are the hosts and yes, their faces will be beamed on television across the globe. But none of this warrants a burden to take with them on the pitch. This squad has worked hard, travelled far and wide to gain exposure and now the moment has arrived. They say you’ve got to cry in training so you can laugh during the games.

I won’t go on about what they should and shouldn’t do. Nothing teaches you as well as a competitive game and the boys will figure it out. Your focus should be on learning the most in those 90 minutes. And most of those lessons, if learnt well, are for life.

While the boys have been training hard for this moment, it’s a World Cup that belongs to all of us as a nation, which is trying to progress in the sport. I am not sure about how the ticket sales are, but I do know that it should do better and the onus lies with all of us. We’re always moaning about how we are never good enough to compete with the best. That’s about to change at an age-group level. The least all of us can do is make our way to the stadiums to back not just our boys in blue but push our weight behind the event.

Football has made rapid strides on so many fronts in the country. More than anything the awareness has grown manifold. The Under-17 World Cup is a great stage to show the world that we do take our football seriously. To serve a quick reminder, the Under-17 World Cup, across editions, had names like Luis Figo, Francesco Totti, David Silva, Neymar and Isco.

The names that we will be gloating over in the years to come are now coming to our backyard and I’m not sure why anyone would want to miss the chance to watch the stars of the future from close quarters.

From what I’ve read, all the venues are completely set to host the games, and I wish everyone associated with conducting the tournament the best. Keep world football aside for a bit. India need to start stamping their authority in Asia and this World Cup is a great chance to make the continent take notice. The senior national team has been on a good run and we will be playing Macau in a bid to take us a step closer to qualification for the Asian Cup in 2019. Bengaluru FC, the club I play for, is in the semifinals of the AFC Cup and we need to beat Istiklol, the team from Tajikistan, by a two-goal margin to make it to our second Cup final. This shows that India is slowly but surely making its presence felt in Asia.

I would quickly like to mention the fantastic job my friend and former team-mate Renedy Singh is doing in facilitating travel tickets for families of the boys in the Indian squad to come watch their kids make history. Most of these boys come from tough backgrounds, but their families have never let it come in the way of football. It’s only right that they get to see the moment they will be really proud of.

Once again, I want to wish this team, the staff and the AIFF all the best for what I am sure will be a cracker of a tournament. Let’s all pull and push together to give Indian football the chance it deserves.

Support Sportstar


Dear Reader,

Support our journalism — where text and pictures intermingle so seamlessly — and help us scale up your experience as the world changes around us. Your contribution is vital to our brand of uninfluenced, boots-on-the-ground reportage that’s worth your while. Clickbait sensationalism is not for us, but editorial independence is — we owe it to you.