FOOTBALL FEVER: The administrators in India finally realised that football can draw people to stadiums
with the huge success of Indian Super League. Photo: H. Vibhu
The boundaries stretched; drifting constituents; acquired parity; and a work of art.
It was a year in which football went through novel experiences, not all of them positive. There was much that shone but nothing caught our eye like the four elements referenced above.
At Bayern Munich, Pep Guardiola continuously extended the limits we place on our understanding of football; in Zurich, we saw a storm of discontent inside the FIFA office that we thought didn’t exist; in Brazil, international football finally stood at par with club football as Germany’s pace and guile won admirers who had been previously disenchanted; and at Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti devised a successful model to fit numerous great players within a team.
Closer home, there was the Indian Super League — a resounding success. The administrators finally realised that football can draw people to stadiums. The attendance figures soared like never before and the quality of football improved too. This was a tournament that brought unexpected benefits to Indian football.
However, a two-month tournament will not take India to the skies; in fact, the men’s national side dropped to 171 in the FIFA rankings before the inaugural ISL had finished.
But it’s a start of a tournament that impressed many through its professional organisation. Questions remain over the ISL’s long-term future but it seems likely that the tournament will offer better football spread over a longer period in the coming years.
The football world was quick to take notice. It wasn’t the most obvious thing to do in a World Cup year. After all, the global tournament had redeemed international football. In the 21st century, as the clubs grew in multidimensional ways, matches between nations came to be seen as a distraction by some.
At Euro 2012, though, there were signs that international football was finding its feet back. In Brazil, it finally caught up with the club game. It was like watching UEFA Champions League over a month, only with more drama and plot lines. Hence, it was fitting that Germany won the World Cup. It was the most modern of sides — blistering pace, superlative technique, versatile attackers, defenders comfortable on the ball and a sweeper-keeper.
Dissent over bidding
If anything, this redemption took the attention away from FIFA’s supposed dirty dealings. The world body gladly gave itself a clean chit in the inquiry on the bidding process for the next two World Cups in Russia and Qatar. But this time, unlike recent history, dissent was registered in strong terms at the FIFA headquarters.
Away from the politics, club football continued to throw up innovations and stories of the most unique kind. While Yaya Toure didn’t get a cake from his club Manchester City on his birthday, Real Madrid bossed the desserts by becoming European and World champion.
Ancelotti’s side has currently won 22 matches in a row; 24 is the record held by Brazilian club Coritiba. In Germany, Guardiola’s Bayern Munich is outdoing its own records. But more importantly, the former Barcelona manager is once again taking the lead in tactical innovation. Bayern’s 7-1 away win over Roma this season was achieved on account of an indescribable formation.
However, the German side was thrashed 0-5 over two legs by Real Madrid in the previous campaign’s Champions League semifinals. If the teams meet again in 2015, their contest could define the year.