(Image :Engalnd won FIFA U-17 World Cup that India hosted in October saw record viewership, which crossed 47 million)
- BEMBEM CONFERRED WITH THE ARJUNA
A journey which began as a childhood love for the game turned a full circle on August 29, 2017 when Oinam Bembem Devi the ‘Durga of Indian Football’ was conferred the Arjuna Award. In process she became the 25th footballer and 2nd woman overall to be awarded so.
It had been long wait of 34 years since Shanti Mullick was conferred with the honour back in 1983 but no one was as deserving as Bembem for her service towards women’s football and Indian Football in general. A glittering international career of 21 years was finally given the crown it deserved when she walked up to President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan.
- INDIA QUALIFY TO THIRD AFC U16 CHAMPIONSHIP IN LAST FOUR ATTEMPTS
India U-16 National Team, under the tutelage of Bibiano Fernandes, qualified to the AFC U16 Championship which will be held in Malaysia next year. Meanwhile, this will be our youngsters’ third-time participation in last four attempts.
Punjab-born prolific attacker Vikram led the team who, in the process, beat Palestine 3-0 in their first outing before squaring it off with hosts Nepal (2-2) and defending champions Iraq (0-0) and eventually snatched the ticket to Malaysia as one of the best runners-up across the 10 groups
- I-LEAGUE-ISL CONUNDRUM
The national league was the main ‘bane’ of contention for the All India Football Federation (AIFF). With the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) breathing down the necks of the national association and the mounting financial might of the Star Sports-IMG-Reliance forced Indian football’s hand.
Major changes were rung in to the footballing calendar as the ISL saw 2 new teams join their ranks and be extended to a four-month (November to February) affair. Running simultaneously would be the I-League, as the race began to see who would jump ship to the ‘IPL’ of football.
The Jindal group pulled their club from the I-League and entered the ISL, as the TATA group were ‘rewarded’ for their service (read TATA football academy) to Indian football with a team. So, Bengaluru FCand Jamshedpur FC became the new teams of the fourth season of the ISL.
As for the I-League, AIFF opened their doors for new clubs. The league returned to the beautiful state of Kerala with Gokulam Kerala FC, based out of Kozhikode, after the Sree Gokulam Group won the bid. Last season’s I-League 2 winners NEROCA FC, were promoted, as the club became the first to play from the state of Manipur. The final debutants were the heroes of the U-17 World Cup Indian team. The players from the U-17 team and some of the U-19 boys, who represented the country in the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship qualification, formed the Indian Arrows.
- India enters FIFA top-100 club
In May, India were ranked #100 in FIFA. In July, the Stephen Constantine-coached India side climbed four places to be ranked #96 in the latest FIFA rankings released on July 6. This is the second-best ranking the Indian football team has ever achieved. The best-ever ranking remains #94, achieved in February 1996.
- Glory For Seniors : India qualified for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup
The Indian national football team finished their year ranked 105th spot in the FIFA Rankings, but rarely has the position on the list reflected the year a team.
The Sunil Chhetri-led team, for majority of the year, remained unbeaten throughout the year. The last time India were at the wrong side of the scoreboard was back in March 2016. India had lost to Turkmenistan in the World Cup qualifiers (India failed to qualify). They are on a record 13-match unbeaten streak, last of which came in November 14 when the team drew 2-2 against Myanmar.
India made history back in May, as the national team made it into the top-100, ranked 96, for the first time in over 21 years. Stephen Constantine’s boys qualified for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, to be held in the United Arab Emirates, after the 2011 edition.
- Launch of women’s football league
The success of I-League and the Indian Super League (ISL) gave birth to the much-awaited Indian women’s football league this year. It was named the Indian Women’s League. 2016 Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik was there in the launch event as the final round fixtures of the IWL inaugural season took place from January to February.
- Aizawl FC wins I-League title with a fairytale journey
The likes of Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Bengaluru FC remained the favourites, but ultimately, passion, grit, determination and some divine intervention led Aizawl FC to win the I-League 2016-17 title. A state that eats, sleeps and breathes football, Mizoram finally came out of their cocoons.
- Record attendance for any FIFA U-17 World Cup
The incredible success of the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 was the biggest ever impetus India would’ve wanted in decades to make their impact in world football. From Kolkata to Guwahati and Kochi to even New Delhi, the fans lapped up the tournament in the best way possible.
Football fans in Kolkata meanwhile, had the lion’s share in helping create the record attendance. It was a full-house in every single match at the iconic Salt Lake Stadium and the stats at the online ticket booking systems showed the ridiculous craze among the fans in the city of joy.
The overall attendance figure in the tournament, as released by FIFA, was 1,347,143. It shattered the previous record of 1,309,929 achieved in Colombia in the 2011 edition of the tournament. Tickets for the rescheduled semifinal fixture from Guwahati to Kolkata was sold out in just a couple of hours. And we are talking of over 1 lakh ticket applications here!