The world is round, it is said. Ever noticed it might be for a reason? It isn’t too hard to comprehend. Football is, inarguably, the world’s most followed sport. Isn’t it? The love, the passion, the fanatic followers and the mind-boggling talent- one reckons, football brings the world closer than what it currently is.
Sports, after all, carry a magnetic pull of attracting people from across the world: diminishing geographical boundaries.
Nothing unites crowds like a massive contest of football. Isn’t that right?
Had that not been true, one would’ve have seen icons- whether a Pele or Maradona, Beckham or Ballack- enjoy the outstanding reception they still receive, decades after their careers are over.
That said, in its bid to solidify the standing of Football in India- a land where Cricket has, for past several decades, dominated national headlines- FIFA and the All India Football Federation must be lauded for hosting the first-ever FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
So you know England for producing giants like David Beckham and Wayne Rooney. You admire Argentina for giving you a lion in Lionel Messi and regard Brazil for presenting legends like Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and, Neymar. But where India is concerned, a land of tens of thousands of football-hungry fans- where does football stand? Perhaps, to renew its ties to an enigmatic sport, India, it could be said, has hit a masterstroke in hosting the 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
Talent was never a concern for India, one notes. Just that with a tad bit of encouragement, Football had to be encouraged. One is glad that that it is happening today.
A country that’s produced a Baichung Bhutia- a legend in his right and one that is kicking critics, old fashioned lamenters (who care to ignore the rise of football in India) in their gut through the brilliance of a Sunil Chhetri- could there have been anything better than hosting its first ever FIFA event? That is an achievement that could be likened to .
So who are the footballing stars from India and what does one think that India’s Under-17 team carry?
Truth be told, many participants in India’s strong 21-member team hail from humble beginnings. Many in India’s Under-17 football team carry aside bright talent and a natural inclination toward the sport- rigours that several youngsters in other parts of the world might want to eschew.
At present, the FIFA Under-17 World Cup squad for India boasts of talented youngsters- agile and ever-ready for a great game- such as Amarjit Singh Kiyam- set to captain the side throughout the tournament.
Amarjit shall be manning a squad that is pegged on the obduracy and proven excellence of blokes like Komal Thatal of Sikkim, Sanjeev Stalin from Bengaluru and, Khumanthem Ningthoinganba who hails from Imphal.
In what is slated to be a tournament of epic proportions, featuring 24 teams, split across six groups shall compete from October 6-28
While on the one hand hosting a revered tournament pegged on the brilliance of exhilarating sides such as a USA, Germany, Japan and, England is in itself an achievement worthy of mighty celebration, India will have something more valuable to rejoice its football-playing youth.
India’s youth contingent: where passion meets rigour
For FIFA 2017 Under-17 World Cup, India’s captain, a midfield marshal, Amarjit Singh Kiyam from Manipur has battled humble financial beginnings to reach thus far. A product of the Chandigarh Football Academy, Amarjit owes his life and career, apart from the excellence of his coaches to his father- a carpenter and farmer who toiled day and night to afford his son, the dream of representing a sport India is hosting for the first time at the topmost echelons.
Similarly, some of Amarjit’s teammates and now, members of a close-knit brotherly unit- have battled financial woes to hone their football journeys. An important constituent of India’s FIFA 2017 Under-17 world cup hopes, Komal Thatal didn’t even have the means to get a football during his childhood. But sadness doesn’t derail those whose hopes are mighty. The son of a tailor would take to a round cloth or plastic with glee thinking of it being his football. Today, he’s one of the most attacking weapons in India’s Under-17 football arsenal. Brazil would remember Thatal’s brilliant goal during the BRICS cup of 2016 that India lost but made a sizeable impression in.
But if you thought that was all, then in Sanjeev Stalin, a strong midfielder- India have a specialist who arose from financial woes, overcoming hardships in Bengaluru, otherwise a mighty IT hub of India. One would hope that India’s footballing youth can channelize their struggles and hardships to deliver the very best at a tournament that’ll demand nothing but exceptional skills and teamwork.
But amidst challenging opponents such as a USA, who one thinks might have honey-dipped India by hailing their talent and capabilities, despite India lying at the lower reaches of the FIFA rankings, optimism runs amok.
Hope springs as Sunil Chhetri expects a cracker of a tournament
With a legend such as Sunil Chhetri encouraging India’s Under-17 squad, calling them on to bring forth their A-game, in taking each game at a time, fans across a Goa, Delhi or Kolkata, that’s set to host the finals would be excited to see what happens when the games begin on October 6, 2017.
Encouraging India’s youngsters to produce a belter of a contest of FIFA’s grandiose stage, Sunil Chhetri, India’s highest goal scorer in internationals has pumped the adrenaline of our young guns in a contest that will see them lock horns with some of the best in the Under-17 contest: Vinicius Junior (Brazil), Jann Fiete Arp (Germany), Amine Gouiri (France) and others.
While it may not seem like a nasty surprise to note that even at this stage Brazil, Germany and France stand as potent forces, capable of mauling any side on a given day, having enthralled fans in the top echelons in football’s globetrotting ambition, a lot will happen on the playing day. This isn’t a sport where battles are won on paper or on basis of conjecture. You are, as good as your last game, or as your last goal. Isn’t it?
But fans would regale to note that the capital city of Delhi- a minefield of varied coaching academies in the booming metropolis shall host plenty of games- would host all Group A games at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium. As far as Western India is concerned, then the revered DY Patil, often a playground for giant sixes and timber crushing cricketing action shall play host to Group B- a pool featuring sides like New Zealand and Turkey. On the other hand, Jawaharlal Nehru stadium’s of Goa and Kochi shall host league games of Group C and D, respectively while Guwahati’s serenely green Indira Gandhi Athletic ground shall be the base for Group E and, Kolkata’s Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan shall host the final Group- F.