AIFF Responds on Indian Football

Here are Mr. Colaco's answers and some suggestions from the Indian Real Time readers who commented on the previous post.

Q: How many people do you estimate play football regularly in India?

Mr. Colaco: It is difficult to estimate. However, we have 33 state associations who in turn have over 400 district associations affiliated to them. There are more then 5,000 registered clubs with the state associations and district associations. Besides, there is school football which is either organized by the Directorate of Sports and Youth Affairs in each state and the School Games Federation; university and college football, football tournaments organized by various public sector and government departments/undertakings like Railways, Services, Petroleum Sports Board, Police, etc. The AIFF and the affiliated units also organize junior, sub-junior and U-13/U-14 tournaments and festivals for boys and girls.

Arunava Chaudhuri at and former editor-in-chief of commented on our previous post that he estimates close to 20 million.

Q: What is the best international performance ever by the Indian national team?

Mr. Colaco: In my opinion the best international performance by India came in the 1962-64 period when India won the Asian Games in 1962 in Indonesia and were runners up in the Asia Cup in 1964.

In Mr. Chaudhuri's view it was India's fourth place in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

Q: What is the Dr. B.C. Roy Trophy? Who plays in it? What stage is it at? What is the prize for the winner? Is it a major event on the Indian football calendar? Etc.

Mr. Colaco: The Dr. B. C. Roy Trophy is the interstate tournament for boys below 18 years. All the state associations are eligible to take part in this tournament. This is the main tournament for spotting and selecting players for the AFC U-19 tournament which is held on alternate years. This year Chandigarh won the tournament. 74 players have been spotted and called for trials and training. The selection was done by our Technical Director Mr. Colm Toal and his assistants. They were present at Kolkata for the whole tournament.

Q: Why is cricket so much bigger than football as a sport in India given that both of them were introduced by the British?

Mr. Colaco: Mainly because India always plays at the very top level. Besides they won the Cricket World Cup in 1983.  They also have a genius called Sachin Tendulkar.

Reader Alok had a different take: "The financial rewards of playing cricket, since the mid 80s have been so disproportionately greater than playing any other team sport, it attracts far more talent, attention, and thereby, more sponsorship."

Anonymous added: "Every school in India has a football team and every child loves playing it…but we need some good management."

Q: What steps are the AIFF and any other footballing authorities in India taking to improve the international standing of the national team?

Mr. Colaco: We have launched a National Team Development program in 2007. This starts with boys in the 13-14 years age group. The progression goes up to the National Team. It has already produced some results as the boys who were part of the U-16 team in 2007 are now going to be in the India U-20 team which will participate in the I-League. We are confident that this program will supply players to the National Team on a regular basis.

The AIFF's efforts don't cut much ice with reader Ajit, who wrote: "If they cannot provide 10 good playing grounds with flood light, all around the year in India, what the heck are they doing?"

Q: When, realistically, does the AIFF expect India to gain a place in the World Cup?

Mr. Colaco: The main aim is that India should be considered to be a serious contender as a qualifier from Asia. For this our first aim is to get into the top 12 in Asia. With our National Team Development program, we plan to get into the top 16 by 2014 and top 12 in 2016.

Mr. Chaudhuri thinks 12 to 16 years is realistic. Kriti was skeptical: "As for when India will make it to the World Cup…I'd say never."

Q: What are the major teams in India and who are regarded as the four or five top Indian players?

Mr. Colaco: If you go by the classification in the last I-League, the top three teams are Dempo, Churchill Bros and Pune F.C. However in terms of fan following and tradition Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are the most popular.

Mr. Chaudhuri adds the following players: Baichung Bhutia; Sunil Chhetri; Subrata Pal and Gouramangi Singh.

Q: What support does Indian football get from the government of India?

Mr. Colaco: The Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs is helping the AIFF in the preparation of the national teams for the Asian Cup and the Asian Games.

Q: Would it be possible to interview Mr. Praful Patel?

Mr. Colaco: I am meeting him on the 2nd of July.  I will ask him and let you know.

If we do talk to the AIFF's president, we'll be sure to provide an update.