If I give a choice to you to choose between “A sixer” & “A Goal”– what will be your choice? In that case, I assure you most of us will vote for cricket Cricket is considered as not only a sport in India. It is considered a religion for some of us. Football is the most popular game globally, and it also has some impact on the Indian sports field. But when we talk about cricket, the popularity of football in India is far away from it.
But have you ever think about it? There is almost 164 Nation who are playing football actively, less or more. And there are only 14 or 15 Nations who are playing cricket actively. Why the less famous cricket is getting more importance from the most famous game football in India? Let’s analyses some facts –
India has been dominated by the British Empire from 1757 to 1947 which is almost 200 years. We all know that cricket has been discovered by the British. For almost 200 years, we Indians had seen the dominance of the British in our political, cultural, social, economic, and sports fields. So we can say this, historically, the spread of cricket in India depends on the British Empire rule of India.
Although we need 22 players to play a full cricket match (As per rules), we need a bat, a ball, and a minimum of only two players to play a cricket match. Cricket does not need a lot of space to play. Even we can play cricket on the roads, grounds, roofs and almost everywhere.
But football needs a bigger ground to play and a bigger team in respect of cricket. The rule of cricket is so simple from the football also.
Geographically India is located in the climatic region. So most of the time the weather here is hot and humid. Football needs more diligence and hard work which is quite difficult in this weather situation. But cricket needs less labour from football which is one of the main reasons for the popularity of cricket in India.
Genetically, the Indians are not gifted with significant physical strength, good height and substantial match fitness which is the most important for playing football. On the other hand, Indians do have enough physical attributes or strength to play cricket competitively.
The infrastructure of cricket in India is very good. Almost all of the Indian states & major cities of India have at least one well-organised cricket ground authorised by ICC. India has plenty of cricket coaching centres where kids and adults both can learn and play cricket. While If you search for the FIFA accredited stadiums in India, you will find very few in India. Therefore the cricket infrastructure is increasing gradually day by day & the football infrastructure in India is declining continuously.
Young Talent Hunt
Both cricket and football in India have a well organised domestic level tournament which is beneficial for the future of these both to sports. But these tournaments are monitored very well in cricket. Therefore we can find a vast number of talent in cricket to play the national and international level. In recent, India has sent two different international teams to England and Sri Lanka which is proof of this statement. On the other hand, we cannot find even 11 football players from our 130 crore population who can play football internationally and compete with the best teams in the world.
Strong governing body
All the affairs of cricket in India are controlled by BCCI ( Board of cricket control in India ) while Indian football is governed by AIFF ( All India Football Federation). BCCI is the most powerful, dominant richest cricket Board in the world. They don’t have to depend on the Indian government for any financial needs. Because of that dominance, the headquarter of ICC has been shifted to Dubai from London. Recently we have also seen the deployment of DRS due to the oppose created by BCCI single-handedly.
On the other hand, we can see that the AIFF has been involved in some controversy due to the internal fight & corruption. Most of the time, they have seen to solve their internal issues instead of the development of football.
Sponsors & advertisement
If you analyse the sport of cricket and football separately, you can see there will be always a break between two overs in cricket and it will attract the advertisement Agencies to promote their brands in between these overs. But football is continuous in nature and there will be only a gap present after 45 minutes which is less beneficial for the advertisement agencies.
The famous Indian Cricket players have been seen in many sponsorship programs rather than the Indian footballers and thus the brand value of cricket is increasing rather than football.
In India, money and cricket are almost synonyms. The Indian cricketers have been paid handsomely and they lead a luxurious life. The prize money, match fees, earning from the sponsorship and now especially bagging a deal from an IPL team could earn a huge economical benefit for a cricket player. We all know that money is one of the most important things for living daily life. So whenever a career choice in sports is in question for a youngster, it climbs automatically towards Cricket instead of Football.
IPL vs ISL
The cricket culture of India has been amplified after the arrival of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008. Every year world-class cricketers assembled in India for playing this tournament. IPL has a large fan base and a huge amount involved. Indian domestic players can learn from the best while playing with them and by performing, they can also rewarded a handsome contract from their IPL team.
Indian super league (ISL) has come into existence in 2014. The core idea was the same just like IPL and in the first season, the popularity of this tournament was on the top. But After that, the popularity is declining day by day. In all of the parameters, ISL is not even close to IPL still now which is quite unfortunate for Indian football fans.
Decline of football in respect to cricket
Despite British rule, football was popular more than cricket in pre-independent India. Durand Cup was played in 1888 which is the oldest football tournament outside the UK. The main core of football was placed in the “city of joy”, Kolkata. Mohun Bagan football club was formed in Kolkata in 1889 which is one of the oldest football clubs in its entire Football history. Just not in Kolkata, football was so much popular in the Punjab, Goa and many other Indian states.
The breakthrough of Indian football came when they played in the London Olympics against France in 1948. Though they have lost against France by 2-1 in the first round, their extraordinary fight has been appreciated by the football experts then. Most importantly, team India has played this match barefooted. But as FIFA does not allow to play barefooted, India has failed to play in the 1950 Brazil World Cup and most probably the decline of Indian football started from here.
On the other hand, the popularity & acceptance of cricket has been increasing rapidly to the Indian people. Before and after independence, the Britishers were encouraging everyone to play their national sport, Cricket. Actually, India has struggled in cricket too. But after the winning of World Cup 1983 in the captaincy of Kapil Dev, cricket has gained mass popularity among the Indian people and gradually they have accepted cricket as a religion, not a sport.
If we say truly, Indian Football has also given some of the great legends like Chuni Goswami, Sailen Manna, Baichung Bhutia, Shyam Thapa and many more others. The legendary footballer Ghosto Pal arguably the best footballer in entire Indian Football history. Our present national team captain Sunil Chhetri is the second active highest international goal scorer after Cristiano Ronaldo. But the fact is, all of the goals scored by him is against weak International teams. So we cannot establish our Indian football at the topmost international level anywhere.
But when it comes to cricket, India has produced a vast number of legends in cricket. “The God of cricket” Sachin Tendulkar is the highest run-scorer in the entire cricket history. Before them, Indian cricket has produced Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath, Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virendra Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and many more countless legends. In recent times, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma Virat Kohli has a huge fan following throughout India as well as the world. And after the arrival of IPL, many more future Legends are creating themselves like Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw, Sanju Samson, Shubman Gill, Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan and many more of them. So the future of Indian cricket is also looking so bright from the Indian football team.
Awards and achievements
India has won 2 ODI world cups in 1983 and 2011 and one T20 world cup in 2007. They are also 2 Champions Trophies in 2002 and 2013. But when we talk about football, India does not have any International Trophies. The most heartbreaking things are they have not even qualified to play any major FIFA tournament till now. This is one of the main reasons for the decline in the popularity of Indian football.
Both sports, cricket and football have a large aspect in India. It is quite unfortunate for us that we cannot find any international level footballer in our 130 crore population. We hope one day will come and we found ourselves in the FIFA World Cup as well as the ICC World Cup together and we will declare ourselves as the new sport Giants in the world. Only ground level better scouting of footballers and improvement of infrastructure could lead us to fulfil these dreams.