Football is for all: Except India
Columns, Point of View

Football is for all: Except India

June 26, 2018

By T.J.S. George

Of the many realities refreshed by the ongoing football frenzy, two are revelatory for India. First: Kicking a ball around is an instinctive urge of all humans which explains both the universality and the irresistibility of football. India fell off the grid because of the willingness with which it surrendered its soul to the concocted colonial game of cricket.

Second which follows from the first: In a world festival where even countries like Saudi Arabia and Tunisia are stars, India is nowhere to be seen. These fundamentals will not change in the foreseeable future, India being what it has become.

The extent of “filthy lucre” that cricket makes is one reason for the game’s anomalous growth in India. The BCCI is known as the richest cricket club in the world. Naturally, it attracts politicians and business tycoons as administrators, making a bad situation worse. It also makes the unnatural natural. An honest BJP leader cannot stand the sight of a 24-carat Congressman and both of them will see an NCP leader as a betrayer. Yet, Arun Jaitley and Rajeev Shukla and Sharad Pawar are bonded buddies in cricket.

The combination of political weight and money power has helped the BCCI stay above normal democratic scrutinies. It goes its way despite the Supreme Court’s ruling that it’s not a private body,  the Law Commission’s proposal that it be brought under the Right To Information Act and the  Lodha Committee’s recommendations for sweeping reforms. The man who lifted cricket corruption to the level of genius, Lalit Modi, remains beyond the reach of law, thanks to the abetment of law-makers.

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Football overtakes cricket in corruption because football money is bigger than cricket money. BCCI’s net worth is under $ 300 million. Real Madrid’s is around $ 3500 million. Even Manchester United, though no match to the Continental or South American giants, has a net worth of $ 2800 million. Individual earnings reflect the same chasm. Virat Kohli, the only Indian in the Forbes list of highest paid athletes, ranked 89th in 2017, with a total pay of $ 22 million (of which 19 million is from endorsements, not cricket). Messi’s earnings in this season were $ 146 million and Ronaldo’s $ 108 million.

That both Messi and Ronaldo got involved in tax evasion cases is a minor detail. The big story is corruption under the almighty governing body of football, FIFA. Sepp Blatter, long-time President, was so powerful that he was considered unshakable — until 2015 when a $ 1.7 million bribery scandal did him in. The crowning piece was awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, obviously for major kickbacks. America’s FBI also got involved in investigations, finding that well above $ 150 million was paid in bribes for marketing rights. Swiss Police arrested seven FIFA officials. What was revealed was a tale of “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted corruption, racketeering and conspiracy.”

Yet, football marches triumphantly on. Because football is human nature. Football is owned by people whoever they are and wherever they are — by Icelanders and Algerians, by Africans and Scandinavians, by the Japanese and the Mexicans. If cricket produces heroes like Tendulkar, football produces Gods like Pele. And Pele said it all when he said, “Brazil eats, sleeps and drinks football. It lives football.” To all mankind, football is heart-ball.

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Even its sordid moments have a touch of class. Who can forget the drama of the 2006 World Cup final when the incomparable Zinedine Zidane floored Italy’s Marco Materazzi with a mighty head-butt. It was Zidane’s last-ever match as a player. Gossip that the Italian had insulted the Frenchman’s sister has been rejected by the Italian. But he did admit later that he had used “stupid words” to rile Zidane. The unforgettable incident ended Zidane’s career on a sour note, but it did not affect his profile as a football great. (Marco Materazzi later had a stint in Chennai as coach for Chennayins).

This year’s World Cup is remarkable for the preparations completed by Russia on time — 12 stadiums, some of them brand new and considered architectural masterpieces. Remember the  2010 Commonwealth Games when we could not get even toilets completed? Small wonder that Bhaichung Bhutia and I.M.Vijayan believe India won’t play in the World Cup in the foreseeable future. How can it when football is in the hands of a politician like Praful Patel, remembered for crippling Air-India when that airline was in his hands? We should be grateful that we can at least watch other countries on the screen.

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8 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Football is for all: Except India”

  1. The author is either Jealous of Cricket or totally ignorant on why people like Cricket. Why do he has to compare the money made by footballers and cricket to prove his point. There is no doubt that Football is played in lot more countries than Cricket but he should remember BCCI is not forcing people to watch Cricket. The main reason why Cricket is famous is mainly due to the fact that Cricket is organized and run professionally by BCCI while the corrupt Indian Football Association is more busy making money for themselves than making the game popular. People like cricket because it is entertaining and easy to understand. Nobody is putting gun at the heads of these fans to go and watch Cricket matches.

    • Vkris says:

      @SrikrishnaBhagwan. The author is spot on about the situation of football in India. I dont think you have ever kicked a ball in your life up until now, I hope you get an opportunity to try it someday, its way more fun than waiting for someone to throw a ball at you every 5 minutes(if you dint get what I am trying to say, its cricket I am taking about). Anyway , India has come a long way with cricket being the most dominant sport , we all know what happens when there is a monopoly in town, nothing else matters and roots go deep into culture and economy . So , like you said BCCI runs cricket like a well organized corporate shitshow that makes billions and football is not getting 0.1% of the infrastructure or support given to cricket, because BCCI has people in it with such high political agenda and will keep it that way for the some part of the future. I hope one day , the likes of people like myself and Mr.TJS George can root and cheer the hell out of our country representing Football at the worldcup .I am hoping it will be soon with the recent developments with Indian Super League (ISL) and a lot of youth taking up Football, until then you can wait for your ball .
      Also, @Mr.TJS George great article on how pathetic our situation as a country with 1.3billion people with the largest democracy and the 3rd largest GDP are not able to make it . I am not trying to put my country down but come on someone has to talk about it and we conveniently do it every 4 years.

  2. swamy says:

    For our politicians FIFA is a big league (for corruption), and they are comfortable with small league like BCCI.

  3. thethreewisemen says:

    Cricket? The game in its longest form runs 5 days and when rain hits, the game is washed out and declared as draw for both parties. Except a a dozen plus country which were former British colonies, the other dozens of countries do not know cricket, do not care for this game as they have adopted the 90 minutes fast ball game. In test match games, one could watch the slow game a few minutes at the cricket ground, go for shopping to buy groceries, bring the kids from the school, help them with homework and then visit the cricket ground to see the game still on-going with a boring pace. Sometimes , one wonders whether the British invented this game to keep their colonials tied to the cricket ground all day thus preventing them from indulging in mischief!
    No game is free from corruption of sorts, but the cricket match fixing became the speciality in India and Pakistan. Indians will never take to this game which uses feet mainly. The rest of the world is enjoying this World Cup.
    China is developing its football clubs, and in a few years, Chinese players will participate in the World Cup games. That should come as a shock to India, just as China being one of the superpowers and a permanent member of the UN is causing jitters in India!

  4. What a World! says:

    It appears that English is not your strength!

  5. What a World! says:

    The above was in reply [email protected]

  6. Thethreewisemen says:

    The 4 countries in this region: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Srilanka will remain as mainly cricket-playing countries for decades to come. Despite the MLS influence ( thanks to Pele playing at Cosmos in the 1970s, ensuring football ( soccer) is watched albeit in a limited sense) in USA and Canada and the award of World Cup 2026 to Mexico, USA and Canada, it is unlikely that football (soccer) becomes the major sport in USA, until the Spanish-Americans displace the Anglo-Saxon Americans as the majority population, and Spanish becomes the predominant spoken language. This could happen in just 25 years, culminating in the election of Spanish-American president. Interesting that Mexico was linked to the above 2026 bid
    Though Australia sent its team to Russia World Cup 2018, Cricket and Rugby as well as Australia’s unique Rules Football will be the main sports. New Zealand has recognised the Rugy as its national sport, although cricket is played


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