It’s a question we all keep asking ourselves. Especially when we see countries some plagued by civil wars, some with populations of about a million, do it every four years.
The question is obvious: why do we have the worst record in the world (well almost) when it comes to qualifying for the World Cup?
It’s not that we were always like this. Mohun Bagan were the first Asian side to beat an European team in 1911. We missed qualifying for the 1950 World Cup only because we were used to playing barefoot and the World Cup stipulated the wearing of shoes. Throughout the 50s and the 60s, India remained one of the top Asian soccer powers.
But by the 80s and 90s , things had reached their present nadir. PSV Eindhoven, a club team from the Netherlands, were thrashing India in friendlies—-10 goals per match were pumped past the hapless Indians. In the three matches we played against them, India found the back of PSV’s net only once (as far as I can remember) and that too from the foot of Chibuzor, a Nigerian first XI discard who together with Cheema Okerie (also a Nigerian never-been) and Jamshed Nassiri (Iran) were the “stars” of the Calcutta maidan firmament along with some home-grown men like Bidesh Bose and Prasun Banerjee.
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