We like to sound intellectual by pondering over such things and Stethoscope Around Doctor’s Neck Heart Beat Braves Atlanta Football shirt, but the bottom line is that the majority of Indian football fans are not fans of Indian football. This is what is hurting us. The country’s youth are a bunch of Man United/Barcelona/Real Madrid/etc supporters. Very, very few of them can name the Indian national team’s starting 11. Most of us know our favourite European club inside out right from the first team squad members to the youngest academy player, but knowledge of Indian football is limited to Sunil Chhetri. One of the biggest recent slaps in the face for football was when the money allocated for football was almost halved in the Union Budget for sports. The relation between popularity of the sport in the country and the attention given to it by the government just gets more and more inverse, or so it seems at first glance. But can you blame them when interest for Indian football has remained pretty much the same over the years? It’s only interest in European football that’s risen exponentially.
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There’s glamour and prestige associated with being a Stethoscope Around Doctor’s Neck Heart Beat Braves Atlanta Football shirt, especially for the national team. You are a batsman for a Ranji Trophy team? Good. You are a batsman for Mumbai Indians? Great! You bat for India? Shabaash! You are a striker for Dempo? Better quit and get a degree. Parents want their children to be rich and want bragging rights over other parents (that’s what Indian parents do). Unless you are on the road to being a great cricketer, you are actively discouraged from pursuing sports, and nothing other than studying is accepted. This is not surprising when even before cricket took off, this country equated “education” with “grades and marks”.