Football in India needs vision and direction on a future course of action to extricate itself from the quagmire it has been trapped in for what seems to be an eternity. Instead, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Kalyan Chaubey and secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran have put together a vision plan for 2047.
The Indian Football Strategic Roadmap 2023-2047 released by AIFF a few days back is nothing short of a poor PR exercise that is destined to leave football at a standstill or in a bigger mess than what it is today.
The much-talked-about roadmap dwells on aspects that need urgent action, but nowhere does it mention how the AIFF plans to address those ills. This cements the fact that a change in circumstances need not come with a change in personnel.
Most involved in football know that nurturing at the grassroots level is key to any development. But, what happens beyond the grassroots is equally important, and it is here that the roadmap falls woefully short.
Growth requires structure, a set of steps that facilitate progress and enhance trust in a system that is formed to oversee such growth. The roadmap drawn by Kalyan and his team does not have such structure and instead talks of what football should be but not how to go about achieving it.
The vision document touches on all or most aspects related to the growth of football but does not dwell on ways and means of reaching the pinnacle. At best, the vision document reads like a political manifesto, and it gives credence to the fact that the AIFF elections were politically coloured.
Football in India began to wobble with the uncertainties that set in with the start of the Indian Super League (ISL), and the same continues, now that the ISL is in its ninth edition. Instead of clubs growing, they have been on the decline or watching from the back bench, waiting for a signal to jump back onto the field.
Individuals who invested in football because of their love for the game, and have stopped investing after the start of ISL, are not convinced that football in India has a vision that will enable them to invest again. This is one problem that any vision statement would need to have addressed.
Football in India has been on wobbly legs since ISL started dictating terms – terms that gave the assurance that they too would accelerate the enthusiasm of Indian football fans towards the league.
It is nine years and football fans have still not been won over because football is not a sport of the elite nor is it a sport that can be determined by the elite.
Football is a sport of the masses and the masses will not participate if they find themselves excluded from the decision-making process.
The decision-making process is important, now, for the good of Indian football, and is the way forward in terms of the football league structure in India.
AIFF is still clinging to the financial rope being dangled by ISL, and it is this fascination with ISL that is the sore that is festering thanks to the individuals that have been controlling AIFF for years.
No corporate entity will want to invest in a club in a remote corner of the country if there is no roadmap as to how the club could progress to become the best in the country. Without such a possibility, the chances of investment are bleak or zero. And this is the problem facing most clubs in India.
The vision document says: “Member Associations to revise and adopt its statutes in line with that of AIFF for good governance”.
The manner in which AIFF opted not to reply to the Goa Football Association’s (GFA) query about whether the new statutes had to be adopted by it before the elections, is itself not very encouraging.
The new statute forbids individuals from contesting for posts to the executive committee without a cooling off period after serving two consecutive terms, thus debarring many present GFA executive members from contesting and thus opening the fray for new faces and thus new ideas.
Unless the passage from the first step to the top is clearly defined, with absolutely no ambiguity, the vision document will keep Indian football struggling to get out of the doldrums.
Stating that the vision plan is till 2047 to commemorate hundred years of India’s independence is not practical because Indian football will not survive for that long.