Soccer is a global game, and the most played sport in the world. Despite its worldwide appeal, it isn’t every country’s top sport, and some nations view soccer as their second, third, or fourth sports, while others disregard it entirely. For many years cricket has ruled in India, but is soccer about to become its new favorite pastime, and will that make India a superpower in the game?
India is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and boasts over a billion citizens. With so many resources, if India were to find a way to develop the game to give young players the chance to progress, soccer could be huge. America doesn’t take soccer all that seriously in comparison to football and basketball, but with recent investment in development, the game is thriving Stateside.
The United States soccer team failed to appear at the World Cup in 2018, but it was the first time in many years that was the case. India has never qualified for a World Cup, but there is hope on the horizon, and if they can turn their population to success it might come sooner than expected.
A developing national game
The national game in India is developing quickly. Cricket is still the most popular sport, but soccer is catching it quickly and supporting a soccer team is now seen as aspirational for young Indian people. Attendances are growing at stadiums, showing that the popularity of the sport is rising. The national team of India is improving steadily too, which is bringing more and more interest in playing to younger Indians.
A proper infrastructure has been put in place for soccer in India, allowing for adequate scouting, a scientific approach to improvement, and match analysis. A Baby League was launched in 2018 for children to find ways to play soccer by combining sport and technology, allowing players to organize games using an app. With more young Indian people playing soccer, a new generation is coming where soccer, not cricket comes first.
The Indian Super League
A huge reason why soccer is growing in popularity in India is the introduction of the Indian Super League. Several top soccer stars have been attracted to go out and play there including Robbie Keane, Alessandro Del Piero, Nicolas Anelka, and Roberto Carlos. Interest in the Indian Super League is growing, and as the standard in the competition improves, the quality of Indian soccer will improve too.
India has yet to qualify for a World Cup, but with the international tournament being expanded to 48 teams shortly, their chances are increasing. Once India makes it to their first World Cup then, they will be all in on the sport. Much like China, there are so many people in India that if they can get the right infrastructure in place, it could become a superpower of world soccer.
Developing the Indian Super League is vital, but once it becomes as competitive as some top European leagues, India well and truly will arrive on the soccer map.