Tougher times are ahead for Indian football team. In what comes as a shocker, the central government has slashed the funding of football by more than 50 per cent (i.e. by 85%). The decision came after the government dubbed the national team’s display as “poor performance” over the last few years.
As a result, a senior AIFF official has lashed out at the new development and rued at the ‘differential treatment’ meted out to the sport, as reported by the Indian Express. “Despite the differential treatment by the government, the AIFF has not compromised on any activity for the senior and junior teams, both men and women. However, it is surprising that a mass sport like football gets less funding compared to other sports that are nowhere close in terms of participation numbers and competitiveness.”
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For the unversed, the AIFF officials had reportedly asked for funding at least three times within the sanctioned budget. Much to their dismay, the sports ministry and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) were not satisfied. AIFF’s demands were termed insignificant as the federation’s developmental work has not been deemed to be satisfactory by any means, exposing the inability of age-group teams to make their presence felt at the continental level and a women’s football programme that ‘lacked structure’.
It is to be noted that the funds allocated to football are way less than what has been set aside for other major sports. Athletics (INR 300 million), badminton, boxing, hockey, shooting (INR 240 million each), archery (INR 158.5 crore) and weightlifting (INR 110 million) are way ahead of football in terms of total funding received. To the surprise of many, even sports like tennis and yachting are all set to receive greater funding than football for the current financial year.
The central government’s call has come as a massive blow to the beautiful game amid its rising popularity in India. Over the years, efforts have been made to popularise the game, however, such a dent will act as a severe hit for Indian football across the country. It will be interesting to see if and how some big football names, in India, react to the big development.