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The twin tragedies of Indian football that went unnoticed

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During the 13th episode of Kaun Banega Crorepati season seven, contestant Sumeet Kumar Sinha was asked: ‘Which team won the first Durand Cup football tournament in 1940 and most recently in 2013?’ The contestant answered Mohammedan Sporting and went home rich with a purse of three lakh twenty thousand rupees.

But sadly, the club has now decided to shut operations after going bankrupt, unable to pay salaries to their players for the last three months. What makes the tale even grim is the fact that this historic club founded in 1891 is even older than the parent body of global football FIFA, founded in 1904!

The decision answers the urgent need to come up with a strong sustainable business model that football clubs in India have been struggling to implement for long. Domestic clubs have been unable to garner lucrative sponsorship deals and have managed to sustain so far through the monies of businessmen who own the clubs, generous contribution from football aficionados, club membership payments and tournament prize money which are paltry when it comes to running a club that includes composition of foreign players. Experts will mention how internal workings and squabbles within these domestic clubs make it a bigger problem. Mohammedan Sporting won its last trophy this year during the IFA Shield but was axed from the I-League for failing to fulfill AIFF's club licensing criteria.

A leading daily said that in the last season, the club spent approximately Rs 10 crore on the senior football team and was walking a tight rope.  The club will now focus on developing youth teams and upgrading infrastructure. Clubs like these need to realise that a sense of professionalism needs to be infused before we see other such clubs shutting shop.

While the country is footballing with the Hero Indian Super League which is promising to improve the football scene in India via better facilities, there was another tragic incident that has shocked football fans. The death of 23 year old Indian football, Peter Biaksangzuala, has garnered global media attention. Celebration was followed by devastation as he attempted to celebrate a goal with a somersault that damaged his spinal cord. He was taken to the hospital, where he underwent a surgery but did not survive. Biaksangzuala had scored an equaliser for Bethlehem Vengthlang football club against Chanmari West football club. The club is based in the north east of India.

While these two tragedies have left a deep void, let us hope that the ongoing Hero ISL helps propel deeper interest for the game and may Biaksangzuala’s soul rest in peace.

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