Last Updated: March 01, 2023, 20:35 IST
Services, the football team representing Indian defence forces, have won the National Football Championships for the Santosh Trophy on six occasions, finishing runners-up four times. They won their maiden title in 1960-61 and have since bagged the title in 2011-12, 2012-13, 20-14-15 and 2015-16. Their last Santosh Trophy title came in the 2018-19 season.
However, in the last 10-15 years, no player from Services has represented India at the senior level as mostly professional players from Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League are picked and also called for the national camps.
One of the reasons is that the Services players are employees of the government, mostly soldiers and therefore can’t play for ISL or I-League clubs. The only avenue for them is the Santosh Trophy.
All-India Football Federation (AIFF) president Kalyan Choubey says things need to change, Indians should acknowledge the contribution of Services teams more and their players should be considered for the national team.
He said though Indian clubs have mostly depended on foreign players for success while Services teams comprise all Indian players.
“We need to acknowledge the contribution of the Services team to Indian football. Promoting them and helping them develop will improve Indian football as they are mostly Indian players.
You can be 5 feet 8, you can be 6.8 and have 72 or 74 kg weight and can still be good football players provided you have good feet. If your body balance is good, if your agility is good, your speed is good. So look at some of the players today in European leagues — the top-class players, they are not necessarily six feet two or about that. Similar is the situation of Services players. Their main strength is fitness, The Army 11 is fit so they can run 90 minutes and that is what is required in football,” said the AIFF president.
The former India goalkeeper said the Indian team management will also be considering players from the Santosh Trophy, like that of Services, for the national team if they are capable.
The 46-year old Choubey also said he has had discussions with senior officials of Services to change some of the rules related to players’ availability for the national squads and also for ISL or I-League clubs.
He said the AIFF is organising the knockout rounds of the Santosh Trophy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to tap into the interest in the Indian diaspora for the sport.
Choubey said the AIFF plans to organise matches similarly abroad to give exposure to Indian players from the states that would otherwise not get a chance to travel abroad and play on foreign soil.
“The Santosh Trophy knockout rounds are being held in Saudi Arabia as per an MOU between AIFF and SAFF. This is an understanding that is mutually beneficial for both sides. I want to continue with this but we will first have to see how these sets of matches go,” he added.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)