After a stunning show at the AFC Asian Cup 2023, Qatar and Jordan are all set to face each other in the quest for glory on Sunday at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar. Jordan defeated the mighty South Korean in the first semi-final to qualify for their first-ever AFC Asian Cup final while home team Qatar went past Iran to be in their successive final after winning the title back in 2019.
But, do you know, once both the teams used to be ranked below the Indian Football team in the FIFA Rankings?
Yes, in 2018, both Jordan and Qatar were ranked lower than India. As per the FIFA Men's World Rankings dated 7 June 2018, Jordan were ranked 110, Qatar 98 and India 97. However, things have changed now, and we need to understand why Indian football has lagged.
Let's take a closer look at the factors that have contributed to India's slow progress in football.
Firstly, the number of matches played by Jordan and Qatar is enormous compared to India. Since the start of 2018, Jordan have played a total of 88 games, and Qatar played 93 games in this period. In contrast, India have only managed to play 64 games. This shows how the governing bodies of both Qatar and Jordan's National Football teams have managed to give their teams a chance to play against tough teams and get better along the way.
To win a football match the one must thing is to find the nets between the opponent's goal sticks. And, India have been guilty of not finding enough good strikers in that period who could make a great partnership with Sunil Chhetri. The lack of Indian strikers in the Indian Super League, the best league in the country has been a reason for that as well.
If you take the example, in the 9 seasons of ISL till now, none of the Indian strikers have been able to come out as the top scorer of the season. On the other hand, in Jordan Pro League's last ten seasons, four times a Jordanian player came out as the top scorer of the season. In the Qatar Stars League, two times a Qatari player came out as the top scorer of the season. Overall in both the leagues in Qatar and Jordan, you would see players from their own country in the top list of goal scorers in every season.
Between the Indian Super League, Jordanian Pro League and Qatar Stars League, only the Indian Super League do not follow the relegation process in their league structure. Indian Super League follow only the promotion structure while the other leagues follow both the relegation and promotion process which encourages more competition and better results.
Although the Jordanian Pro League and Qatar Stars League are run by their football associations named Jordan Football Association and Qatar Football Association respectively, the Indian top-tier football league have a different system. The Indian Super League is administered by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and its commercial partner Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL).
Sadly AIFF can not take any major decision while FSDL, which is run by a company named Reliance, take the majority of decisions as the commercial partner. Now, when the top governing body of Indian Football has to go through FSDL to make decisions, it is quite evident that they take the second seat when comes to making major decisions for the league.
While Indian head coach Igor Stimac has been very vocal about having camps before major tournaments, the AIFF has not been able to give them that. The Indian team had to play the Asian Games and AFC Asian Cup 2023 without any practice games ahead of the tournaments while teams like Jordan and Qatar even faced each other to prepare well before the tournament. Qatar played two friendlies while Jordan played three friendlies ahead of the tournament.
It has been quite like this for the Indian National Football team for long where the AIFF was not been able to provide longer times to the coaching staff and the team to prepare well before any major tournament which made it hard for them to find ways to fight against better teams on the pitch.
In conclusion, we can admit that not only teams like Jordan and Qatar have outdone AIFF and Indian Football team in terms of everything, we have only AIFF and the football structure in India to blame for the slow progress of football in India. And, we do not even know when it will change the gear.