Will India qualify for the FIFA World Cup?

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FIFA World Cup Soccer: A brief introduction: Soccer is the most popular game in the universe. More than 200 countries are registered members of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, more commonly known as FIFA. Qualifying rounds are held throughout the year culminating in a grand finale every four years involving the 32 best teams from 7 geographical zones. The reigning champions and the host country get automatic qualification whereas each and every team irrespective of its record has to go through the qualifying grind.

Will India qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2018? Technically speaking, Why not? Realistically speaking, the chances of India qualifying are slim. It is not that India has never qualified for the FIFA finals. In the year 1950, India had qualified by default as all the other participating teams in her group submitted their withdrawal. The football governing body in India declined to send its team citing financial constraints. In the following world cup in Switzerland in 1954, India had qualified again but due to a FIFA ruling not allowing barefoot play, India dropped out. Other than these two instances India has not come anywhere near qualifying.

Why does India find it difficult to qualify? India has a population of about 1.28 billion people, out of which not many play serious football at any level. India is a country which is obsessed with another sport, i.e cricket. Cricket towers over every other sport in India almost pushing them into the background. Out of 10 boys, at least 7 would say that he would like to become a cricketer when he grows up. Not many would prefer a career in Indian football as they feel that there is not adequate financial security in the sport in India. India has a culture which lays greater stress on financial stability. It must be said that there is no paucity of talent. If the talent is properly nurtured there is no reason why India could not become world beaters.

The light is visible at the end of the tunnel: In the recent times, the awareness for football in India has increased due to the exposure to top class football matches from all over the world. A professional league named Indian Super League has been launched recently which has attracted top experienced players such as Roberto Carlos, Alessandro Del Piro and others. With this exposure, Indian football is sure to see an improvement in the years to come.

Financial support is now forthcoming: Any sport requires financial backing. Till very recently, in India cricket was the only sport having the financial clout. Now, other sports too are making their presence felt due to corporate sponsorship. Football is slowly gaining popularity among the youth.

India’s position as far as 2018 qualifying rounds is concerned: India is placed in the Asian zone which comprises of 45 teams who are scheduled to play four qualifying rounds and a final playoff. India has qualified for the second qualifying round and is placed in a tough group involving Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan and Guam. These teams play 2 matches against each other on home and away basis. The top teams in each group along with four best second placed teams qualify for the third round of qualifying matches. Looking to the present trend India is not very happily placed, but one can never say anything in sports. India has a realistic chance of qualifying for the next round.

Conclusion: The question still remains whether India can qualify for the FIFA World cup finals in 2018. Ask any Indian, his heart will say “Yes, Why not” but his mind will say “Probably remote”. As God himself has placed the head over the heart, one has to go with the latter way of thinking. As of today the only way India could qualify for the FIFA World Cup Finals is to host the event.

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