The FIFA World Cup is set to take India by storm but the flagship program started by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in association with the Government of India and Federation International de Football Association, the ‘Mission XI Million’ has taken to rough weathers. A lot of reports in the media suggest that there’s more to the story than what meets the eye.
To some extent, that might be true. The Mission XI Million Program was intended to be a stepping stone for India as a footballing country, and FIFA President Gianni Infantino believed it would be ‘laying the foundation for a real revolution’ in Indian football. While there may be questions over its output versus the input, there’s no denying the fact that the intent was right, and there has been some impact; “some” being the key word here.
Reports that numbers are being forged are doing the rounds, but we need to understand that FIFA sanctions projects to developing countries with targets which have to be achieved and the AIFF are exactly trying to do that like they always do. The event has had its reach in several sectors, and it isn’t really a wrong thing to do.
At most of the schools, the authorities did not find the right kind of infrastructure to play football. Logically, it is not possible to re-create and restructure a despondent education system, a system lacking in sporting activities in a country which ranked 67th in the 2016 Olympics with just one silver and bronze, that two, from two fighting women.
MXIM targets to do specifically that and a few photographs stand testimony to the same.
The ambitious project has even received the backing of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We need the support not just of children, but also of every parent and every teacher to encourage boys and girls to play football and develop both skill and fitness,” said Prime Minister Modi. “I am confident that these children will be able to take Indian football to its rightful place in the world.”
According to the website, the program has reached 43802260 students, 6239 schools, 25 states and close to 6600 teachers, meaning a teacher every school at most destinations. The program has also overseen the distribution of 12,935 footballs across 33 cities over five different workshops. It is certain that most of the students will forget/forgo the event in the foreseeable future if they haven’t done it already, but it surely will change the life of some, making them take up the game.
In the world’s largest democracy, where close to 5 lakh crore rupees went down the drain in the name of demonetization, an effort worth INR 12.5 crores to create a positive vibe about the world’s most famous and beautiful game is worth a try, isn’t it?
A combined effort from the Government and a similar amount from the football governing body is certainly laudable. However, is this going to be a case of the end justifying the means? So far, there has been a massive discrepancy between the official numbers and the ground reality. Maybe, in the end, Mission XI Million will fall prey to numerous good intentions before it. That being said, it would be wrong to dismiss the initiative without giving it a chance.
About the infrastructure, it is quite impractical to accuse the AIFF of the same. They’re not responsible for creating it, and the central governments over decades should take the blame. The society, too, plays a key role. If your father was a cricketer, even a budding one at the lower rungs of the game, the first sporting gift he gives you is a bat and a ball, even today.
Football is not a game; it’s a lifestyle. You’ve to grow with it, to make sure the country grows in it. The FIFA U-17 World Cup will be better off without these controversies, as they might hinder the chance of us getting the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Also, in a country with a population of 1.2 billion, touching the lives of even close to 10% of the population, and the attempt needs to be applauded.
However, it remains to be seen whether the current “developments” in football in the country have any long term positive effect on the culture of the sport in India.