How can I best describe the year 2010 in Indian football, then it is a difficult one to assess and judge. It is a mixed bag of positives and negatives, which I guess is usual in a year of transition and hopefully 2011 won't be another one of these...
Off the field the big news came in December when the All India Football Federation signed a TV rights and marketing deal with IMG-Reliance valued at 700 Crores Rupees plus. The contract is of a 15 year duration and both sides hope to develop the sport in the coming years after the AIFF's relationship with the Zee Group had broken down.
And just before it in November the AIFF got a new General Secretary in Kushal Das after Alberto Colaco ended his tenure after nearly 10 years in office. A lot is expected from Kushal, who comes with a reputation of having been CFO at the International Cricket Council and having worked for sports agency IMG.
Team India has had a difficult year with no Nehru Cup and the Asian Cup still far away in 2011. The novel project of keeping a 30 players squad together as the national team from June until the Asian Cup has come under much criticism over the last few weeks due to different reasons. First there are the high cost involved, then the numerous friendly defeats which culminated in the 1-9 trashing against Kuwait, injuries to key players and the sudden departure of manager Pradip Chowdhury. Surely not the best of preparations, but now lets see what Team India can do at the Asian Cup.
The I-League is set to become fully professional in the 2011/12 season and the clubs are fighting to fulfill the AFC set Club Licencing criteria. The deadline ended on December 31, 2010 and some clubs seem to be failing to make the cut. One will also have to see who is in the 2.Division I-League then only clubs which comply would be allowed to participate.
But while the I-League is being professionalised, Dempo SC won their fourth I-League/NFL title in six years in the summer. The Goans are currently the undisputed champion club of India as coach Armando Colaco continues to build Dempo Sports Clubs and his own legacy.
The year had started off with East Bengal Club beating Shillong Lajong FC in the final of the Federations Cup (India's version of the FA Cup) at a sellout Nehru Stadium in Guwahati and the Kolkata giants would repeat the achievement in September/October by beating archrivals Mohun Bagan in the following Fed Cup finals in Cuttack.
Looking at Women's football, they have made India proud by winning the inaugural gold medal at the South Asian Games football tournament and the first-ever Women's South Asian Football Federation Championships both held in Bangladesh. After falling off the FIFA Women's rankings in 2009 AFC and SAFF have ensured that they play regional football through these tournaments, but now they need to move up the level and play more continental matches.
2011 has arrived and we all now look forward to the AFC Asian Cup where India will be playing its biggest tournament in years. Lets all pray for the best...