The 2011 AFC Asian Cup has reached the final stage and the worlds largest countries by population in China and India are long gone. And comparing the two new power engines of the world economy in the game of football would be unfair to both as what China all has in infrastructure, youth development system and coaching is mostly lacking in India.
But the football world hopes that both countries are set to play a bigger role in the beautiful game in the years to come. FIFA president Sepp Blatter recently had said after granting Russia the right to host 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar, "It's my philosophy to drive forward the expansion of football. The next regions that we need to conquer would be China and India."
That is good news for football in these two countries, but the ground reality is totally different in China and India. Indian national coach Bob Houghton, who also coached China and Uzbekistan in the past, said, "There should be comparisons between China and India as they are growing economic powers, but it is a difficult one in football.”
Comparing the two Houghton said, “When I was in China between 1998 and 2004 you could see this growth especially in football with stadiums and training facilities being built with top division clubs having facilities which are of English Premier League standard. But we lack these in India and have problems to run our I-League with stadiums not available."
If you look at the way the two sides came into the tournament and the results here in Doha, then there is a huge gap between the two nations. China came through the qualifiers second to Syria; while India qualified by winning the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, a second tier national team competition in Asia.
China who were above their group rivals in rankings coming into the Asian Cup but had a mixed tournament in Group A. They won their opening encounter 2-0 against Kuwait, but lost their crucial second game 0-2 against hosts Qatar while only getting a 2-2 draw in an interesting tie against Uzbekistan to finish third in their group, which meant elimination.
India meanwhile were drawn in the toughest of all groups, in Group C. Little was expected from the Bhangra Boys, who suffered a 0-4 loss to Australia, a 2-5 defeat against Bahrain and lost 1-4 against South Korea. India returned to the Asian stage after 27 long years and showed glimpses of talent in all their three matches, but they have a long way to go to catch up with the best on the continent.
Both sides will now be closely watched, but when these emerging football nations will become power houses of Asian football will have to be seen. Both sides will hope to be back in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia.