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U17 World Cup

U17 World Cup: Why Team India deserves unconditional support?

01:23 GMT+3 06/10/2017
India U17 World Cup team
The need of the hour is to savour the first Indian team ever to partake in a World Cup rather than overburden them....

Hosting the 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup which gets underway on Friday, 6th October, is seen as a step towards the right direction as far as the development of Indian football is concerned. Not only do the infrastructure and facilities in the country get a makeover, but the country's profile gets a boost among the global footballing fraternity. 

Naturally, the India U17 team, which gets an automatic spot in the competition, has been the centre of attraction in the run-up to the tournament. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Sports Authority of India (SAI) have invested huge amounts of resources to ensure a competitive team is fielded against the best young talents in the world.  

The team was put together in 2015, sent on extensive tours in various countries and given the best training and facilities available and despite the change in coach earlier this year, 21 of the best youngsters are all set to wade into unchartered territory for any Indian team. 

The fans in the country, understandably excited to see an Indian team in a World Cup, have been pinning high hopes on the young shoulders but one needs to realise that this crop of youngsters is only a small piece in the larger jigsaw.

The FIFA U17 World Cup is a talent show rather than a coveted piece of silverware. The tournament should be used to gauge the progress the India U17 team has made rather than measure them up against the bigwigs of football who come through professional setups which are on a whole another level to India's.

Most of the teams participating in the World Cup have players who have been playing competitive age group football right from the age of seven or eight which makes a massive difference when compared to Indian players.

Regular, competitive football helps the players gain experience and help them deal with pressure and teach them how to react to adverse situations which are very crucial in the development of youngsters. India's age group football set-up is nothing but in shambles and the India U17 team has played very few competitive matches, which already puts them at a massive disadvantage. 

So what should one expect from the India U17 team as they prepare to take to make their World Cup bow? Not miracles. But one should savour the fact that they are playing on a level field with the world's finest and take a laidback approach when it comes to the result. It honestly does not matter. 

What matters is the fact these youngsters continue their development with regular competitive football after the tournament and go on to form the crux of the senior men's national team in the future. That is how the success of the U17 World Cup will be ascertained. 

Another factor that will go a long way in ensuring the young prodigies are not overburdened by expectations is the unconditional support of the crowd during their games in the tournament. India has a thriving football scene these days with followers of European leagues and national teams of prominent footballing countries aplenty.

Since there is no local connect with these teams, most of the fans are attracted by their success over the years, playing style or the presence of star players. While it is not a bad thing, there have been many instances of overseas fans switching their allegiances because of a lack of success or because their favourite player has moved to a different club. What is lacking here is that unconditional love and support one might have for a team you consider your own or a team from your locality. 

In case of the India U17 World Cup team, there is not a clear idea as to how the team is going to play, given that the Indian fans have not seen them play enough games. Not many are in the know as to who will start for the India U17 team as well. The fans may not know the team inside out, but they need to adopt the team as their own and become their 12th man. 

As they prepare to battle in the U17 World Cup despite being huge underdogs, staunch support from the stands might just inspire them to play their best and hold their heads high even if the result is adverse, rather than feel they have let down the nation. This team deserves to be celebrated rather than be dissected and analysed. 

For, by taking to the field in the U17 World Cup, the team will have made the country proud and the results should hold no significance in how the players will be perceived by the fans. They deserve unconditional love and support from the fans, for those young shoulders should not be overburdened with unrealistic expectations.