India will host FIFA finals
In 1950 India qualified for World Cup Finals; in 2022 India is far ahead of Pakistan as per FIFA ranking- it is 106 vs 194. In fact, we qualified for the FIFA World Cup in the year 1950, which was hosted by Brazil. However, India did not take part because our players were not allowed to play barefoot. According to FIFA rules, wearing boots is mandatory. I don’t believe that the government led by Nehru ji could not afford to buy boots. Those days priorities were certainly different. Whether the then Government of India did not sanction the required fund to send the team to Brazil, is still not clear. The most probable reason for non-participation was that our players lacked the confidence to play with boots on.
Just before that, India played football in the London Olympics of 1948. They were defeated by France 2-1. It was reported widely that Indians played football barefoot - it became world news, news. In a press conference the then-Indian Captain was asked why they played barefooted. The reply of the Indian football captain was brilliantly stunning. Indian Captain Shri Talimeren Ao replied, “ Well you see we play footfall in India whereas you play BOOTBALL”. His sapient reply amused the entire media. By the way, Shri Tlimeren Ao was from Nagaland.
During the 1986 World Cup, we had a Black and White TV. In those days Maradona was quite famous; Argentina was one of the favorites. Electric supply was a big problem those days. We did not have an electric generator either. The power supply was given alternately to the Assembly constituencies on alternate days. My location was at the cross-road of two constituencies. I made a reciprocal agreement with an Engineer residing in the adjoining constituency who is also a football fan. So to share power supply on off days we arranged wires which are about 300 meters long (used some old wires too). Under this arrangement somehow we could get the power supply every night. I did enjoy most of the matches. These days we hardly have any power supply problems, do we?
We don’t know when India will qualify for the FIFA finals. To be one of the top 32 soccer countries is still a dream. Once I had a discussion with the then Union Sports Minister about the possibility of India playing in the world cup finals. He said, until and unless FIFA increases the Asian quota, it will be difficult for India to qualify. I respectfully disagree – whether the quota is 4 or 5, if we are one of the best teams in Asia we will certainly be included in the last 32. He said that is better but what is more practical is to increase the Asian quota. He told me that he will take up the matter with FIFA so that more countries from Asia take part.
As of now, the Asian quota is only four. This time five countries are playing in the finals because the host country has the privilege to play. So, Katar is playing – the other four countries which are playing in the 2022 finals are – Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. I really don’t understand the logic that Europe is represented by 13 countries. That means FIFA is still Euro-Centric.
Even though India is not playing in the finals; millions of football lovers in India watch the matches. I believe most of them are happy because two Asian teams have already reached the last 16 or entered the pre-quarter-final stage. Japan and South Korea have entered the knock-out round. Youngsters in Manipur are crazier about South Korea. I really don’t understand the logic of the popularity of anything South Korean. Is there any connection? It might be because of K-Drama, K-music music, or BITS. Many are watching Korean movies even though they don’t know the Korean language. It must be true that Art, Music, and sports have no boundaries.
There is an easy entry to the FIFA World Cup Finals – if we are allowed to host the Cup. The host country is automatically qualified for the finals. Our Hon’ble Union Home Minister once said if I remember correctly that – India is willing to host the FIFA World Cup 2026 or 2030. The inaugural and final matches shall be held in the world’s biggest Stadium in Ahmedabad – the Narendra Modi Stadium which has a capacity of about one and a half lac spectators. In fact, India must be given an opportunity to host the FIFA World Cup.
If Katar can do it, why can’t we? The fund is not a problem – Nita Ambani is always willing to share the burden for Indian sports. Adaniji can’t remain a silent spectator. I think FIFA's top brass should seriously think of our lucrative offer. It is a win-win situation for FIFA and India. It is going to be a billion-dollar deal. If both Adani ji and Ambani ji are involved, it can be made a trillion-dollar jamboree.