The 2017 calendar year started on a high note for Indian football as the national women's senior football team got their hands on the SAFF Women's Championship after defeating Bangladesh 3-1 in the final on the first week of January.
That set the tone for a sensational year in the history of Indian football. Something we can proudly brag about that has never happened in the recent years!
The successful hosting of the FIFA U-17 World Cup remained the pinnacle of success in India this year. This also made FIFA — the world football governing body — sing plethora of praises about the rich potential of the beautiful game in the country.
The FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 has been resounding success with many records being broken with regards to the attendance. India is a continent, not only a country. I said that India has become a football country, but have the feeling that India have become a football continent.
Forget cricket, football is the future for India.
India represents 1/6th of the world population. India is a sport country. There is a passion, a will to embark and invest in football because of the benefits of the game. The people here work with the youth, boys, girls to men and women.
The etiquette of playing football – teaching the respect for the rules, referees, your opponents are given. I think when we see the potential in India then we have no other choice but help football grow sustainably in India.
India shows true passion for football.
– FIFA President Gianni Infantino spoke in Kolkata (October 27)
Hope is one thing we have received aplenty this year, despite the plethora of negativity from the sidelines restricting our growth.
Let's list out the highest points in Indian football from 2017:
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 (IWL). 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.
This praise from FIFA was just another reward they thoroughly deserved.
Congratulations message from FIFA President Mr. Gianni Infantino.. Thank you FIFA and Mr. President for your warm message. pic.twitter.com/ugxIoZHhCV
— Aizawl Football Club (@AizawlFC) May 6, 2017
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.
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 have 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 the Mecca of Indian football, 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!