Sunday, September 16, 2012
Double Dhamaal: First Nehru Cup and now SAFF glory
Indian football is surely on the upswing! First, the Indian men’s team did the country proud when they upstaged a much higher ranked Cameroon in the final to win the Nehru Cup for the third consecutive team. Now, the Indian women’s team gave all of us another reason to rejoice as they retained the 2nd SAFF Football Championships in perhaps the most clinical style – outwitting Nepal 3-1 in the summit clash.
And this winning highs have to be seen in perspective. Any victory in Indian football is celebrated and appreciated all right; but it is also accompanied by cynicism – especially regarding the quality of opposition India won against.
For instance, Indian men’s team Nehru Cup wins in the 2007 and 2009 editions may not be talked about in the same light as the 2012 edition for the sheer ‘Cameroon’ factor. Okay, Cameroon came into the tournament sans the likes of Samuel Eto and Alex Song but their absence no way diluted the competitiveness of the African side, who seemed to have enough firepower in the side.
The manner in which Gourmangi Singh gave India the lead against Cameroon and later skipper Sunil Chettri brought us back on level terms in the dying moments of the game are enough indications of the new found self-belief that this team can dish out much better brand of football than their current 169 FIFA ranking suggests.
The winning momentum was built upon by our women footballers in the SAFF championship. Of course, their triumph would be greeted with talks of inferior opponents and the ease with which they cornered glory.
It’s not our women’s footballers’ fault that most of the SAFF football playing nations have failed to bring any improvements in their playing standards.
Save for Nepal, who emerged the second best team in the tournament by a long shot, India were engaged in lop-sided matches for most part of the tournament. In fact, apart from the final match where Nepal took an early lead against us, Indian women were either having target practice or toying with their opponents.
The decimation they inflicted on their opponents is a further indication of their 52nd FIFA ranking and should not be seen the other way around (that the title win was a piece of cake for the girls).
Two international titles in a matter of one month have given Indian football the much-needed leg up and one hopes that AIFF puts its best foot forward to sustain this winning momentum in both men’s and women’s football.
When I say this, I mean AIFF must make every effort to stage more international games on FIFA match days as that is the first logical way to move up in FIFA rankings before we think of other ambitious targets like World Cup qualifiers among others.
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