Questions posed on the state of Indian football

Is Indian football in complete shambles? Some experts believe so. "When the National Football League was in the blueprint stage, the Malaysian league acted as a model. Not many thought the Indian edition would finally see the light of day, so even a modest model was okay. But the League did happen, and credit to the current regime for that. However, leave alone development, soccer in the country has failed to even follow the path of evolution. The modest Malaysian model is all this league has achieved. Even with the second division of the League in place and prize monies at a decent level, not much has happened," Sujit Bhar opined in the Indian Express.

Indian Football Association secretary Subrata Dutta concurred. “The All India Football Federation should concentrate on five zones in the country — north, east, est, south and the north-east. Ten players in each, the under-13, under-16 and under-19 categories should be chosen and set up in academies. Pay them a stipend each, increasing with age. When they pass out of the u-19 category they can directly be accommodated in NFL teams for higher salaries,” he told Bhar.

Through this structure, the AIFF could monitor the youths' progress and then tie players to contracts that allow them only a certain number of matches for clubs and make them always available for the national team - with payment, of course.

That’s the view Mohun Bagan FC secretary Anjan Mitra shares. “Believe me, it is very difficult for a player to respect and fear the national coach and manager, however famous they may be, as much as he will his club officials,” Mitra says. “That is because the clubs’ ensure their future, their family’s future, their very existence,” he told Bhar.

“Such an idea was adopted in 1999, with 30-odd players,” said PK Banerjee, manager of the Indian squad. Those were the days of dribble wizard Krishanu De. “We did get some result, and we must go at it again.” Banerjee, though, debunks the theory that the clubs need to have much more say. “These are two different spheres.”

Mitra differs. “Have the clubs in decision making panels at the AIFF, take guidance, don’t formulate policy on your own,” he said. “Academies have to be set up by the federation. Then give a gestation period of three-four years. Results will come.”

And the foreigners? “Good Indian players, will be cheaper and will keep the foreigners on the bench,” Dutta said although Banerjee feels India needs them. “Fight with them, compete with them, get better in the process,” he told Bhar.

And what about the coaches themselves? National coach Syed Nayeemuddin has been vehemently opposed to foreign coaches. “What extra have they achieved with the Indian team?” the Dronacharya asked. “We can do an equal job, if not better.” Mitra disagreed. “The foreign element will induce respect and fear. Give the boys a good teacher and they will obey. Give them the best and they will respond. So what if he is a foreigner?” he said.