IN the map of world football, India is nowhere to be seen.
Thanks and no thanks to cricket, an inexplicable game matched only by the inexplicable adoration of the Indian masses.
But if one digs deep enough amid piles of cricket refuse, there is a vibrant football tradition to be found, particularly in the city of Kolkata, home to one of Asia’s oldest football clubs.
That city of 15 million people is where Uruguayan Diego Forlan, the 2010 World Cup Golden Ball winner, landed last Friday to play an exhibition match for a selection against Mohun Bagan football club slated yesterday.
Forlan joins Pele and Oliver Khan among the big names that have rewarded the people of Kolkata for loving the beautiful game.
The Atletico Madrid player’s visit speaks volumes about how serious the movers and shakers of football there are about pushing the sport forward.
On the other hand, if you ask the Indians themselves, their football association is one bumbling organization that cannot get its act together.
Case in point: a goal.com commentary published July 30 assailed the All India Football Association (AIFF) for posting two “embarrassing” errors on its website. First, it
announced the “top secret” names of its opponents in a friendly 48 hours before kickoff. Second, it posted the schedule of the match one day late.
The caption under a screencap image of the AIFF error went: “Are they responsible for football in India?”
The article by Rahul Bali was no less scathing: “To commit a major blunder is unacceptable and must not go unpunished. The AIFF deserve the stick for misinforming the fans and the media alike and an enquiry must be conducted on this whole affair.”
One comment read: “I am ashamed as an Indian that such people are running the show in Indian football.”
Now what does this have to do with Philippine football? Well there’s a lesson or two to learn from the Indian experience, but nothing to boost our collective self-esteem.
But if a bumbling AIFF can manage to persuade the erstwhile coach of the Philippine National Men’s Team to relocate oceans away and handle its U-19 squad, what does that say about our Philippine Football Federation (PFF)?
Back in India, Bali wrote in behalf of his countrymen: “We are not asking for much but (for) the basics to be taken care of.”
How wonderful would it be to ask the same thing of the PFF: for the basics to be taken care of. Too bad for Philippine football, there’s nothing basic about the screw-ups the PFF has repeatedly managed to pull off.
What to describe it then? The word “shameful” does not even suffice.