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India's football struggles to stand on its own

While football is growing in popularity in India, it might take a little longer before the cricket loving country makes the swap to the beautiful game.

NEW DELHI: In 1950, India qualified for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Back then, the newly independent country declined the chance to play, citing the long sea journey, team selection issues and being unable to play in bare feet as reasons for their non-participation.

Sixty-four years have gone by and India has still yet to achieve a single appearance at the Finals.

While football is growing in popularity in India, it might take a little longer before the cricket loving country makes the swap to the beautiful game.

Despite a population of more than a billion people, India doesn't feature as a football superpower.

Fans of the game believe that too much red tape and too little infrastructure are the main culprits.

D K Bose, President of Hindustan Football Club, said: "The federation themselves are not having any field to play on. If they do not having any ground of their own, where can the national team can practise?”

The sport is controlled by a committee-based body, the All India Football Federation, which is funded by FIFA.

However, the national youth football association comes under the auspices of the Sports Authority of India, an organisation that does not get money from FIFA.

This often leads to confusion and frustration as young talented players often end up not getting any financial support and thus feeling a sense of disillusionment.

Kartik Chanana, a football enthusiast, said: "Every country is developing but India is not developing. We are going behind and behind. In Japan, they started their football in 1990 and they got their professional league. We still don't have our professional league. We call the I-League as professional, but it's not a professional league. It's just an amateur league."

Still it is hard to ignore a game that is played and seen by hundreds of millions of people all around the world.

Cricket may be India's staple sport but if football gets its act together by improving its infrastructure and marketability, there might just be a challenge in the years to come.

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