India in FIFA U-17 WC: A performance to cherish, a reason to dream ahead

India U-17 team thanking the crowd support
A performance to cherish, a reason to dream,
India U-17 team along with coach Luis Norton de Matos after their 2-1 loss to Columbia thanking the massive crowd support

Indian football team had a more than just a "normal history" for any Asian side. We were the first  Asian team to reach semifinals in football at 1956 Olympics. India also were the first team to win gold medal in football at Asian games. But one thing eluded India even during its prime between 1950-60, a chance to play at the world cup. On 5 December 2013, history was meant to be rewritten as we were awarded a historic opportunity to host the 2017 U-17 World Cup. India will be playing its first ever World Cup before its home crowd. The dream of billions to watch India at a FIFA WC was going to be real, though at an age-group level.

This news gave the football federation with the task of rebuilding two crucial factors for any sport to be successful in a country- Infrastructure and a football league structure at multiple age-levels. The core of potential WC team were selected by rigorous scouting and went through world-class training like never before for any Indian football team. The direct qualification to AFC U-16 championship was a testament that things were moving at a decent pace but the inability to win a match in the main event was bound to question the credential of the squad.

After the tournament, lot of things happened during the span of 12 months with the replacement of coach, major shuffles in the squad. When finally the World Cup time finally came knocking at the door, the fans who were following the team for years were hoping for a positive performance arrived in numbers were able to witness a positive performance from Indian team in first half of what was its first World cup match ever lagging by just one goal conceded by penalty. But, the US team showed their superiority throughout the game winning by a convincing scoreline of 3-0.

Given the quality of team from North America, the result was an expected one for the regular fans. But, our team was expected to perform better against Colombian team which were suppose the weakest of the rest in our group and our vital chance to score a goal and if possible pick a point. And, our team did not disappoint in fulfilling the burden of expectation after Jeakson Singh Thaunaojam scored a sharp header from the corner. This made the whole stadium of more than 48000 fans in the stadium go wild. I(AchamThavirthan) was one of those lucky to witness the historic moment of Indian football in stadium. Unfortunately, I was also one of those 48000 football maniacs who witnessed the noisy JLN stadium go pin-drop silent in very next minute when Colombia got back their lead.

That goal from Colombia shook the hearts of thousands in the stands but gained more than just hearts for the Indian team. The optimism was such that despite conceding the second goal, most of us in the stands were yet to throw the towel and were expecting the equalizer from our boys. People going back home were seriously discussing about the prospect of qualifying to next round by beating Ghana, no matter how improbable it may sound. This performance will hopefully act as a catalyst which we need to believe in ourselves as a footballing nation and start believing in the dream of playing in the FIFA World Cup at the senior level by end of next decade.

While the dream of watching India play in a FIFA World Cup has turned into reality for many including me, next one in the wishlist is our Senior National Team in the FIFA World Cup and that one now looks much closer courtesy of these kind of performances by the young generation.
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About its acham saying

I am Acham Thavirthan from Mumbai. I have been a follower of Indian sports, mainly Indian Football and Hockey, with a wish to see a day when every i-league matches being followed the same way IPL games are watched and also to watch in stadium the Indian football team play FIFA world cup.

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