We all are born to die and that is why the essence of living comes from one’s perception of death. And it was the death of Pele towards the end of the year that threw into focus the perception of death.
Pele will be kept alive in the annals of football not just because of his relationship with the ball but the manner in which he took the game forward as a person; how he handled greatness and his ability to always stand with God.
He has and will continue to touch the lives of those who never saw him as a player or as a messenger of the game. He was the sort of man who could reach a person in any corner of the world with his innate humility.
Pele did not keep the best of health for a while, and it was good his time came when it did. It hurts when the good are taken away, and that is the pain the world is going through after Pele has physically gone.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) declared a week of mourning for Pele and perhaps many other countries must have done the same. But Pele would have preferred football go forward instead of pausing for him.
Indian football is definitely not on the best of grounds. It was in shambles during the reign of Praful Patel and seems to be in the same state despite new incumbents now gracing the pedestal.
Initially, there appeared to be hope when the Supreme Court stepped in to sweep away the morass holding the game from going forward. FIFA took a few more steps and suspended India, allowing the country to be gripped in the fear of losing the hosting rights of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
Everyone buckled, stepped back and allowed FIFA to have its way, and the World Cup was held. A World Cup which India did not gain from nor will gain anything even in the near future.
There was a hue and cry when Kalyan Chaubey won the election against Baichung Bhutia. The result was clearly indicative that the result was politically motivated.
Yet, there was hope that the football in Kalyan Chaubey would not allow him to override the tenet of the game – football is the game of the masses and that discrimination between the moneyed and the poor does not allow the ball to roll.
Football in India needs a roadmap. There was one which was blurred after Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) was allowed access to it.
Top clubs of the country opted out and that includes three clubs from Goa – Dempo Sports Club, Salgaocar FC and Sporting Clube de Goa.
The three clubs did not leave the ball but vacated from the maidan where the game was being played with uncertainty. Uncertainty still exists, and they are still out and with them plenty of talent.
The new president Kalyan Chaubey and his secretary Shaji Prabhakaran promised to divulge a new roadmap for football in India, within hundred days of taking charge. More than a hundred days are over, and there is still no sign of any roadmap.
The Santosh Trophy is being held, and there is nothing new in it but the logistical format. Clubs are still not convinced that promotion and relegation will be introduced in the Indian Super League. And, if yes, how?
Basically, clubs are clueless if the club that gains promotion will need to pay a participation fee to ISL, which was around Rs 12 crore last season. Because if they have, most teams will not be able to raise that sum of money to start with.
Kalyan and Shaji have been talking about taking football to the grassroots but are yet to explain whether the grass or the root or both need to be nurtured and how.
Football is a game made beautiful by a man called Pele because he played with his heart and it was clean. Pele taught the world through football what it was to be a good human being, honest and decent.
If Maradona is remembered for his “hand of God”, Pele will be remembered for his heart of God. And Indian football is longing to be tended by people who are guided by their heads and hearts.
Most state football associations are without bounce. Goa has got back its bounce after the election of Caitano Fernandes. In his over hundred days, he has proved that he is capable of taking the sport forward with his vision, that he listens to all but makes up his own mind.
To move forward, Indian football needs all state associations to move to the same beat, and that is an onerous but achievable task if the AIFF decides to take a few lessons from Pele.