Hope floats as India take on Chinese dragon
India’s record against China has been abysmal. The two countries have played each other 17 times with India yet to taste success. All matches have been played here in India, yet as India make the trip to the far east to play China for the first time away from home, there is hope.
“India can have a good game against China. They (China) are in a bit of transition with players retiring and new ones coming in. I feel India needs to play against them before the Asian Cup because they are going to be up against this type of opposition in UAE next year,” said Bengaluru FC midfielder Erik Paartalu.
Paartalu is no stranger to domestic football in China and India, having plied his trade for Chinese Super League outfit Tianjin TEDA in 2013. The Australian is now among the more influential players in Indian football and has seen the sport make quite some progress.
“I feel Indian football has come a long way. Certainly, that’s the case in the last five years. Everyone's talking about their fast rise through the ranking table. I see them like China has been in the last 20 years,” said the 32-year-old.
China, with Italy’s 2006 World Cup winning coach Marcelo Lippi at the helm of affairs, has attracted wide attention with high-profile signings in the Chinese Super League. The national team is ranked 76, 21 places above India, but former India captain Jo Paul Ancheri is among those who believe the visitors can give their hosts a run for their money.
“It will be a good experience for the Indian team as they are playing away in China. It is a friendly but they should give their all as they are preparing for the Asian Cup. India is in a good position and can put up a fight against any team. It will give us a good opportunity to assess our weaknesses as we are playing a stronger team,” said Ancheri.
The expectations have risen, according to Paartalu, largely due to sustained efforts in the last five years that has seen a steady rise in the stature of Indian football.
“The CSL has been around a lot longer than ISL. I think the CSL, the sort of money on offer there is crazy. You always wonder if they will be able to sustain that. The ISL started with a lot of money too but now they are a bit smarter. They have realised that paying crazy money on players who are at the end of their career is not going to benefit Indian football in the long term.
“If you see CSL’s approach, it hasn't really helped the local players in the national team set-up. But there are a lot of academies set up and probably a golden generation will come up in the future,” said the Australian midfielder.
The Sydney-born feels Indian football is on the right track and the results will be seen, sooner rather than later.
“The ISL has been taking a somewhat slower approach (compared to CSL) but realistic approach for success. Indian football will be better off if it keeps going like this,” said Paartalu.