For when “the Sleeping Giant” wakes up.

Back in 2012, then FIFA president Sepp Blatter had said that Sleeping Giant is waking up after AIFF, the governing body of Indian Football described its plan of bidding for the rights of hosting two world championships, Club World cup 2015 and U-17 World cup in 2017.

On Wednesday (30th May) Real Kashmir FC created history by becoming the first club from Jammu and Kashmir to clinch promotion to Hero I League

Over the years, a lot has changed in the world football scenario, Sepp Blatter was banned as FIFA President for 6 years, Germany won the 2014 world cup for the fourth time, Zlatan alone became Superpower like Chuck Norris or Rajnikanth, while in India, ISL was launched and became the fourth most watched league in the world, while the country also earned the rights to host U-17 World cup in 2017.

But despite the positive looking strides, the Indian Football Scenario has been changing for worse. The poor performance of the National team at the World Cup Qualifiers and then with the never-ending controversy of ISL-I league merger has brought in a whole new conundrum for the AIFF to worry about. The Sleeping Giants – AIFF, that was supposed to be waking up has gone back to its slumber.

The ISL-I League issue that had first started as concerns back during its inception regarding which is the board’s first priority, that later boiled down to an unnecessary controversy by its third year. The board’s failure to merge both entities keeping everyone happy has failed resulting into the neglected I-league clubs to write this issue to FIFA and AFC. According to the last update, AFC has appointed its own team to supervise the AIFF’s committee to draw a better road map of Indian football, while FIFA has asked to keep it posted with each update. The year 2017 will be playing a huge factor in deciding the fate of Indian football. A magnificent hosting of U-17 World Cup and a successful merger between the two conflicting leagues will be a huge boost to not just Indian football, but the whole Asian Football. Both FIFA and AFC know the Importance of Indian Audience and what it can bring to their table.

Right now, European Leagues and competitions are watched all around the world, while during the world cups or other International cups, there is no lack of support for South American sides as well. While on the Asian sides, apart from 7-8 countries, there aren’t many opportunities for either the game or sponsors. Indian football being a part of major International competitions by next few years can change the dynamics of the Asian football. A look at the most popular game in India- Cricket will show you how a game can bring a complete set of new Standards, Style and fans, which would be followed by brands and money with it.

During 1960’s Football, Hockey and Cricket all occupied the same space among the Indian Audience or maybe a little more space for hockey. But since 1970, when Indian Cricket team started winning internationally the shift began, with Sunil Gavaskar being the role model for almost all Indians. By the end of 1980’s, Failure of Indian Hockey and Football’s team meant the gap would just increase, while the Indian Cricket team had already won World Cup and World Championships. With the emergence of Sachin Tendulkar in 1990’s along with India’s booming economy power coincided with Cricket taking the number 1 spot in the country’s sports followers list, while football just went the other way. While the rise of Television Industry was the important factor in popularizing the Cricket, Indian Football failed to capitalise the opportunity. Despite coming up with various leagues, the restriction of games popularity within certain places meant Indian football never got to reach its full potentials.

But that could change in the near future, Clubs like Bengaluru FC, DSK Shivajians are investing in the youth setup, while ISL clubs are contracted to start their own U-19 and further youth teams in near future. Importance to a proper youth setup and spreading the game throughout the whole country will help in reigniting the lost passion for the game. Both FIFA and AFC has been patient with the India’s slow growth in this regard and the recent turmoil’s in the Indian football environment has made them take a special interest.

India has managed to change dynamics of any sectors once they have got involved, be it the economy, nuclear power or Cricket, we have always managed to create our own space. Next few months will be a testing period for AIFF to come up with a better solution, while FIFA and AFC will be keeping a tab on it, because nobody would want to underestimates India’s potential 1.2 billion market strength, they would just want to be prepared, for when ‘the Sleeping Giant’ wakes up, Football will have a whole new world to explore.

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