India is hosting FIFA U-17 World Cup and it’s official song “Kar Ke Dikhla De Goal” which roughly translated into “Show That You Can Score a Goal” is very invigorating and exciting. Football is the second most popular sport in the country. There are about 10,000 kids playing at all levels in this country.
India is No. 2 or No. 3 for the grassroots talent. So the question is the kid playing football will he or she take up the sport professionally as a career or they do leave it behind after the school and are really not serious about a professional career in football.
The reason for this is there is no well-defined career path. Football Clubs or FCs are coming up and there is a time when a parent will see things as the sustainable career for their kids.
There are about 3 leagues in India and 30-32 teams t which caters between 650-700 players. So the funnel from at least 10,000 kids having the potential to getting the final ones to represent the country to get the World Cup is a challenge to be addressed.
First one is access to coaches and infrastructure. The Golden Rule of the game is that a kid has to play 10,000 hrs of football between the age of 10-15 yrs to be competing with the international talent. Which also means about 40-50 competitive games because what is being learned in competitive games cannot be recreated in a friendly match.
It takes a lot more than talent to get up there prime thing is that you have to be mentally very strong to get up to that position. For example, if somebody has landed in Tata Football Academy, the chances of them being looked after is very high.
There is no ecosystem of football and we are already looking up to the leagues to get talent in place. Elite football is very important and that is what we get to see. There is a big base to choose from and there is a vacuum as the kid with talent and desire have the necessary fund and infrastructure. The opportunity is almost declining.
Coaching is a risky business as there is no scope which is being looked into. If the kid who decides to take up the game professionally is dropped out in the entire process has nowhere to go for. So there is the requirement to have a structure of clubs, with infrastructure, funding, desire, and place to play. The network of scouts and coaches who train and shape the talent and send them to the next level in the sport.
There is a difference between being in top 100 and top 50 teams in the world. There is not a single team from Asia which has not qualified for Asia Cup and then the World Cup. If we decide today then in 20 yrs we will be there. The only measure of success is a win or loss and every small success is a success.
Sports Marketing comes at a slightly more evolved stage and then is Sports Management. Without a strong competitive structure, there will not be people investing in the sport.
We are an intelligent enough country to find an intelligent solution to this problem of how we get more partners in the ecosystem involved from the base of the pyramid of 10,000 kids to 600 kids at the top. Either we shorten the pyramid or we have more involvement.