“Some-day I hope it’ll be India that I’ll be cheering,” says one of the boys. “Then we’ll stop supporting Brazil.”
Domestic football in India is far more popular than domestic cricket, and many teams in the country’s National Football League trace their origins back to the 1880s, when the game was introduced by British colonials.
Indeed, league football was being played in Calcutta long before Real Madrid or the world governing body Fifa even existed.
The country qualified regularly for the Olympics until the 1960s, and were invited to the 1950 World Cup in Brazil but the problems of a long sea journey and the fact that they still played in bare feet prevented them from appearing. India is currently ranked a disheartening 143rd in the world.
Englishman Steven Constantine, who coaches the national team, identifies the problem as a lack of a proper grass-roots infrastructure. “You see kids playing football in the street with no shoes everywhere in this country but there’s no development at youth level.
On a brighter note, private football associations like the Indian Youth Soccer Association are keenly developing talent from the streets in an attempt to lift the sagging fortunes of the game in India.
Each week nearly 20 Delhi street children aged eight to 13 – orphans or runaways – gather to play and learn the basics on the lawns at India Gate, an archway in the centre of the city that commemorates Indian soldiers who died in World War I. They are being taught shooting, passing and dribbling.
“We are planning to start a league for these street children as has been done in Brazil and Argentina because we feel there will be a huge talent among them,” professed the secretary of the association, Mr Arup Das to the BBC.
adopted from the BBC
Website: The AIFF official website
Website: The Indian Soccer Youth Association
BBC Article: Rooting for Brazil in Calcutta
BBC Article: Indian street kids given new goal