The last few years have been kind to Indian football. They cracked the top-100 in the football rankings while putting up some commendable performances in the Asia Cup. Even though there have been certain disagreements between the AIFF and the I-League clubs, it certainly looks like Indian football is finally picking up steam. There has been a change of personnel in the coaching setup with former Croatia manager Igor Stimac replacing Stephen Constantine as the head coach of the team.
Robin Singh has also played its part in the rise of Indian football. The striker has scored 5 goals for the Blue Tigers in 30 matches and is a regular in the domestic circuit. During an Adidas Tango League event in Mumbai, Robin talked to Hindustan Times where he discussed the rise of Indian football.
‘It has progressed a lot and everybody has played its part from Stephen Constantine to the I-League to the ISL. Everyone has played its part to take Indian football higher and this shows in our ranking as well,’ Robin said.
Constantine was integral to India’s success for the past few years. Now Igor Stimac is the head coach. He has tried to implement a new style of football. But how long does Robin think it will take for Stimac to change the identity for football played in India.
‘I have been lucky to watch them play live. The football that Stimac wants India to play is great. The players love it and at the end of the day, you need your players to associate with the kind of football you want. The players like the way Stimac wants us to play and when I watch them I want to be involved. I am gutted to be sitting outside. I want to be training with the boys and I want to play for the nation. I like what he is doing and I hope in the coming months I am part of the setup.’
There has been the emergence of football tournaments like Adidas’ Tango League which will contribute to the rise of the sport in the country. Robin also believes that tournaments like these will greatly help in the development of young football players in our country.
‘It is surely important. When I was growing up, these type of tournaments were scarce. Adidas coming in and bringing Tango to all over the country is going to help. This is going to bring in a bunch of grass-root talent. A tournament like Tango League in Mumbai is going to help Indian football grow bigger.’
Bhaichung Bhutia recently said that Indian football is too dependent on Sunil Chhetri at the moment. The 35-year-old Indian skipper has continued his goal-scoring spree for India and is immensely important for the team. So does Robin also think that the statement is true?
‘A strikers job is to score goals. If we are not getting the goals then the first person we look at is the striker. Sunil is the leading goalscorer in Indian football and people do look up to him. At the same time, he has got amazing boys and young talent in the team. With respect to Sunil, he is a senior guy in the team and a person; people do look up to for inspiration. I think that’s what Bhaichung Bhutia meant when he said that we depend on him. I hope that’s what he wanted to say that we look up to Sunil for answers. But there are a lot of boys on the team like Anirudh Thapa, Adil Khan, Sandesh. I can keep going with the names and I am gutted that I am not a part of the squad.’
Bangladesh almost upset the Blue Tigers in a World Cup qualifier recently at the Salt Lake Stadium. It seemed as if India would fall to a defeat at home before Adil Khan popped up and scored an equalizer in the 88th minute. Even though the style of football Stimac wants India to play is desirable but the results haven’t been kind to him. Robin believes that even though the results have been poor, India is on the right track with the kind of football Stimac wants the players to play.
‘See, progress takes time. It’s not going to happen overnight. We have moved up the rank, Constantine played its part, Stimac is playing his part and the results will follow soon. I am sure it is just a matter of time before results follow suit. Stimac coming in has brought positivity to the camp and a new style of football and it’s only a matter of time. Hats off to Bangladesh as they sat with just two men and defended and played on counter-attacks. That also shows the kind of respect Bangladesh has for India. They knew we are a good side, they knew we can score goals. On the day Bangladesh worked hard and got the result.’
The recent I league, AIFF and ISL standoff has troubled the heads of football in our country. So we ask a current Indian footballer on his views on bringing about a stable change in the structuring of Indian Football.
‘I think the people involved will know the right way. I would love to play football and I have been lucky to have been part of both the leagues. As a professional footballer, I just want to play football. I’ll just let this matter be in the hands of the people that are in charge. The committee brought about a few changes and we just have to see in the time to come how they are implemented. Indian football is growing and its always better to have a plan,’ Robin concluded.