Last night, 19th June, was supposed to be a gala night for me and all the Indian football fanatics who, incidentally, are the most optimistic lot. We knew that Indian football was coming live on Ten Action. Excitement was even more because the most hyped, loved, adored and discussed baby of AIFF, the Indian Arrows was playing under the name of India U23 team. Expectations were soaring high. And why not? This is the same bunch of players who defeated Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, TSV 1860 Munich and drew with Manchester united and Iraq in U16 tournaments, thrashed American development teams by tennis scorelines and were given the best treatments! More recently, they managed to finish 9th in 14 team I-League having defeated ‘mighty’ Mohun Bagan 5-4! A great feat indeed!
Since a week prior to the match-day, I was frantically searching for a working live stream link for Ten Action Plus all through the internet. Then came across the alkass website which was a huge relief. The digital TV subscription in TIFR for Ten Action was over after the Champions League. At least that’s what I believed when I found the channel off from all the 3 TV sets for consecutive 4 days. Finally, I was settling for the live stream and came to the lab on Sunday evening. I started the stream 2 hours prior to kick off fearing that the stream may not work due to overload, congestion or Murphy’s law. Yes, I was that desperate and believe many of you readers were equally desperate if not more. I gave myself one more chance, went to the TV room 1 hour prior to kick off to check for the channel. With prayer on my lips, pressed 1-0-8 and voila! There it was!
There were other fellow students too in the room who had never known that India has a football team. I had to change to the movie Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. But there was still some time for kick-off and the best way to keep the remote with you was to follow what the crowd says, sometimes. I thought it was a great opportunity to initiate some people with Indian football. I was sure they would be floored by the deadly combination of Jeje, Sabeeth, Jewel, Shilton, Dika and Raju. I told them, it was a ‘fresh’ team and also about their past achievements. They were finally convinced and i switched to Ten Action and very much to my disbelief saw us 1-0 up! I was seeing my mission ‘initiation’ going successful today. But it was only a matter of time. The difference between the two teams became starker.
For the first 30 minutes we were not bad I would say and I was happy to see us giving a fight. But after that everything we did was anything but football. Our midfield was non-existent. The only thing they knew was to kick the ball in the air no matter who gets it or where it goes. It reminded me of the day when for the first time I played football. I was in standard III and knew absolutely nothing about the rules except for that football is meant for kicking around, not even the fact that the ball should reach my team-mates and not opposition. These players seem to be knowing only little more than what I knew. Kick the ball in the air and hope that your striker will get it. Now there were 4 Qataris and one Jeje. Your guess is as good as mine regarding who gets the ball.
I am not saying I was expecting a win or even a draw from these guys. All I was hoping for is that at least they would gift us some nice passing football, some good skills. Except for Jeje, Abhishek Das and Raju, I don’t see any reason why all of these players cannot be replaced by some random guy! All they need is to recognize the opposition side and kick the ball on that side! Now, one can blame it on the English coach Des Bulpin who implements English style. But one has also to accept that this bunch of players have got no skills to play the passing football.
And Des Bulpin. He looked so clueless during the match! No aces, no tactics up his sleeve! What was he doing? It seems one just need to be born in Europe to become a coach in India. Our senior team coach Mr. Colaco wants us to play possession based football. But isn’t it counter-measure to appoint English coaches for youth teams and expect them to change their style of play when they move to seniors. I just hope some sense prevails in the AIFF regarding this issue.
Nevertheless, I will still be watching the home leg of the qualifiers. I will still be looking for changes that we have been waiting for now for so many years. I would be looking for few moments of good football and some sparks of talents so that I can proudly say, this is our future Indian team.