Indian football put under the BBC Sport spotlight

Matthew Kenyon of BBC Sport in Delhi looked at a country of more than a billion people but with a national team ranked 157th in the world and commented that "the football equation in India does not add up." The problem, he noted, is that in a huge country, football is confined to a few regions. Calcutta (Kolkata), the former capital of British India, is the centre of the game. Goa has the bug, thanks to its previous rule by the Portuguese. "But elsewhere, football comes in a distant second to cricket."

"As cricket grew, interest in football declined," Novy Kapadia, Indian football writer, told him. "Fewer states were actively promoting the sport, so Indian football couldn't take advantage of the country's huge population, with the numbers supporting and playing the game dwindling. And there's been years of neglect in both infrastructure and youth development."

But there are plans to revitalise football in India. NK Bhatia, secretary of the Delhi Soccer Association, said his region has been chosen for a pilot project next month. "Football will be restructured at the grassroots level," he said. "We've already conducted coaching for our school teams, 45 teams participated at the ages of 10 to 13 and 13 to 16. And we'll conduct a college league, for youth development. After that we'll develop into a semi-professional league, and then into fully professional."

India's National Football League, which is only 11 years old in its current form, is getting a new boost from television. Zee Sports, a relatively new sports channel, has signed a 10-year deal with the AIFF to cover all Indian games and it plans to entice more viewers by offering a much slicker product. "Ten years is a long time for a football contract," said Gary Lovejoy, the Chief Operating Officer of Zee Sports. "The reason it is so long is that there is so much to do to develop the game here. There was little point in having Indian Football rights for just three years. We want to make Indian football look decent in the face of the high-quality production standards you get from the Premier League. We're now covering football with up to 13 cameras, whereas previously the rights holder in India had gone down to four or five cameras, which simply was not good enough."

INDIA'S NFL TEAMS

Mahindra United (Mumbai)
East Bengal (Calcutta)
Dempo Sports Club (Goa)
Sporting Club de Goa
JCT (Punjab)
Mohun Bagan (Calcutta)
Mohammedan Sporting (Calcutta)
Air India (Mumbai)
Churchill Brothers (Goa)
HAL (Bangalore)

Mahindra United are the current NFL champions

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