Game has stagnated in the country, says Vijayan

Game has stagnated in the country, says Vijayan

Indian football legend I M Vijayan on Thursday said the game in the country has stagnated in recent years with the national side not showing improvement with a string of reverses at the regional and Asian level.

Former captain Vijayan, who played 79 matches for India between 1989 and 2003, refused to pinpoint the SAFF Championships debacle, but said that the national side has not produced results in recent years.

“I am not an (sports) administrator nor am I playing in the national side now. So I am not going to blame anybody for this. But what can I say, it’s for all to see. We are not getting the results in the recent years at the regional and Asian level,” Vijayan said.

“I am not saying this because of the title loss in SAFF Championships. In fact, the team played well, even in the final against Afghanistan. But we have not had the desired results in recent times. When I was playing India were in top 100 in the FIFA rankings (94th in 1996). But now we are low in rankings (147th),” he said.

India took part in the 2011 Asian Cup in Doha after winning the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008 at home and in the same year also bagged the SAFF title for the sixth time. The country, however, failed to go past the qualify round of AFC Challenge Cup in 2010 and 2012 -- the first one, under Englishman Bob Houghton, had Under-23 players while the second one was a full strength team under current coach Wim Koevermans, who took charge in July last year for a two-year deal.

The national side also lost heavily in the two international friendly matches played this year -- against Palestine and Tajikistan. The only saving grace was the Nehru Cup title triumph here last year under Dutchman Koevermans.

Vijayan said that it would be difficult for India to jump to top 10 in Asia and qualify for the World Cup in near future.

“It will be a difficult to be among top 10 in Asia. We have to qualify for Asian Cup and beat top teams there and we have to be able to play in later stages of the World Cup qualifying round. It’s tough but it’s not impossible,” said Vijayan.