Sleeping giant India ‘sinks to new low’
NEW DELHI – Agence France-Presse
Members of India's football team stand in front of the Indian flag as the national anthem is played. AFP PhotoIndia hit a new low with a “humiliating” loss to tiny Guam in World Cup qualifying, the country’s media said on June 17.
India, once hailed the sleeping giant of football by FIFA president Sepp Blatter, was outclassed by the Pacific island minnow on June 16 night.
The 2-1 defeat was made even more embarrassing as India, with a population of 1.25 billion compared to Guam’s 160,000, is 33 places above Guam Matao (174) in the FIFA world rankings.
“HUMILIATION”, screamed the Mail Today tabloid, which said the defeat was the latest in a string of poor performances.
“There is a point after which the word embarrassing does not do justice while describing repeated debacles,” the newspaper said in its back page article.
Other media were similarly scathing of the performance in which Sunil Chhetri, with almost the last kick of the game, scored a consolation goal for the more experienced Indian side.
“In Pacific, Indian football sinks to new low”, a Hindustan Times headline said, while the Indian Express went with “Speck-tackle: Tiny Guam slay India.”
The Hindustan Times published a list of other sorry defeats suffered by India, which has long struggled for attention, and players, in the cricket-obsessed country.
“India have been in a free fall for a while now with the last away win in an Asian or World qualifier coming in 2001,” the paper said, referring to defeats by minnows Maldives, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Fiji in recent years.
India’s coach Stephen Constantine also criticized his players, saying they lacked “football intelligence in key moments of the game.”
But the Englishman said a key contributing factor was that many of Guam’s players train and play in the United States.
“Today the difference was very much visible between a group of players who have the best football education and the rest,” he told reporters after the match.
“Seventy five percent of the players who represented Guam have been born and brought up in the U.S. and that made a huge difference.”
Football’s popularity has been growing steadily in the cricket-mad country with the Indian Super League drawing tens of thousands of supporters to games in its first season. But India, currently ranked 141 in the world, has long struggled to rise high in the world rankings and is yet to qualify for the finals of a World Cup.