Come 2017 and we have the biggest of all sporting competitions to be held in India. The FIFA under- 17 football world cup! It cannot get any bigger than this. India had to ward of challenges from bidding countries in Ireland, Uzbekistan and South Africa. It may be an Under-17 world cup but it has great significance for the development of football in India. India has only once been inside the top 100 among the footballing nations in the year 1996 which is very dismal for a country with a population of 1.2 Billion. With the advent of this world cup we would like to see a rejuvenated India in the world of football.
It has always been fascinating to watch the young guns of the major footballing nations fight it out for this elite trophy. The most successful of nations in Under-17 football is Nigeria with a trophy cabinet of 4. Because of their tremendous success the Nigerian Team is known as the Golden Eaglets.
For the fourth time of asking on Asian soil, the Golden Eaglets sealed their place in FIFA U-17 World Cup history when they trashed Mexico 3-0 in the final of UAE 2013, to bring their title haul at this level of youth football to four.They emerged the top scoring team of the tournament with 26 goals, a record that speaks volume of the attacking instincts of this great team, tipped to rule the world in the future.
Nigeria may not be an economic super power like India but we can try to learn a lesson or two from them on how to develop the game of football. Renowned Indian footballer BhaichungBhutia says that-“It’s necessary to nurture young talents as it will lead to the making of a better senior team for the future. The Youth Development Programme should be given substantial importance”. We should try and encourage young kids to take up the game of football at a young age after all football is the most popular team game the world has ever seen. The Under-17 FIFA World Cup will be the biggest international soccer event ever on Indian soil. Although the AIFF has hosted several international tournaments both at national and club levels, it has never hosted a FIFA event. FIFA president SeppBlatter had urged AIFF to bid for the Under-17 championship when he visited India last year. The Asian Football Confederation had also backed India’s application for the FIFA Under-17 world cup.
India, FIFA ranking 148, have hardly been a force in world football. In November, the national team beat Nepal 2-0 in a friendly and drew 1-1 with the Philippines in another friendly assignment. The real work, though, starts now. With FIFA’s backing India will have an unprecedented opportunity to improve the much maligned infrastructure in the country. It is also hugely important that a mega scam like that of 2010 Commonwealth Games is avoided. These four years can also give Indian clubs a much needed incentive to develop and groom players so that they can play against the best in the world. Pune FC has already started the process of identifying players who may participate in 2017 but other clubs need to follow suit. A well-organized tournament may open up vistas to stage bigger tournaments for senior teams like the Asian Cup. The Under-17 World Cup is expected to bring football back into focus in a cricket-mad nation.