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Chhetri�s legend grows but India slips as WC dreams go up in smoke

By The Assam Tribune

NEW DELHI, Dec 28: Goal-machine Sunil Chhetri remained a notch above the mediocrity that is Indian football, which endured a forgettable year thanks to early exits from the World Cup qualifiers and the Asian Cup besides an 11-rung drop in FIFA rankings.

The year did witness a development of far-reaching consequences when the All India Football Federation (AIFF) dumped the 12-season old I-League (after 11 years as National Football League) to second-tier level in domestic club competition. The top slot was taken by cash-rich but much younger Indian Super League which began in 2014.

After a long tussle between majority of the clubs on one side and the AIFF on the other, the national federation, after an intervention by the Asian Football Confederation, recognised ISL as the top-tier league in the country. The ISL-winning side will now get a chance to play in the continent�s top tier Asian Champions League while the I-League winners will compete in the second-tier AFC Cup. On the positive side, the AIFF president Praful Patel made history by becoming the first Indian to be elected to the prestigious FIFA Council, the governing body of the world�s most popular sport.

India was also awarded the hosting rights of the FIFA Women�s U-17 World Cup in 2020.

India began the year on 97 in FIFA rankings, but after two wins, four draws and seven losses, the country ended 2019 at 108. The biggest takeaway, though, was the goal-less draw against reigning Asian champions Qatar in Doha in a 2022 World Cup qualifiers match.

A high profile coach in the form of Croatian Igor Stimac, a 1998 World Cup bronze-winner, was appointed after Stephen Constantine resigned following the Asian Cup in January but India�s football fortunes remained unchanged.

Amid the ruins, captain and talisman Chhetri refused to slow down despite touching 35, perhaps playing his best football in the last couple of years. His effortless takeover of the mantle of Indian football�s poster boy from Bhaichung Bhutia was complete when he surpassed the �Sikkimese Sniper� in the number of matches played for India. � PTI

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Chhetri�s legend grows but India slips as WC dreams go up in smoke

NEW DELHI, Dec 28: Goal-machine Sunil Chhetri remained a notch above the mediocrity that is Indian football, which endured a forgettable year thanks to early exits from the World Cup qualifiers and the Asian Cup besides an 11-rung drop in FIFA rankings.

The year did witness a development of far-reaching consequences when the All India Football Federation (AIFF) dumped the 12-season old I-League (after 11 years as National Football League) to second-tier level in domestic club competition. The top slot was taken by cash-rich but much younger Indian Super League which began in 2014.

After a long tussle between majority of the clubs on one side and the AIFF on the other, the national federation, after an intervention by the Asian Football Confederation, recognised ISL as the top-tier league in the country. The ISL-winning side will now get a chance to play in the continent�s top tier Asian Champions League while the I-League winners will compete in the second-tier AFC Cup. On the positive side, the AIFF president Praful Patel made history by becoming the first Indian to be elected to the prestigious FIFA Council, the governing body of the world�s most popular sport.

India was also awarded the hosting rights of the FIFA Women�s U-17 World Cup in 2020.

India began the year on 97 in FIFA rankings, but after two wins, four draws and seven losses, the country ended 2019 at 108. The biggest takeaway, though, was the goal-less draw against reigning Asian champions Qatar in Doha in a 2022 World Cup qualifiers match.

A high profile coach in the form of Croatian Igor Stimac, a 1998 World Cup bronze-winner, was appointed after Stephen Constantine resigned following the Asian Cup in January but India�s football fortunes remained unchanged.

Amid the ruins, captain and talisman Chhetri refused to slow down despite touching 35, perhaps playing his best football in the last couple of years. His effortless takeover of the mantle of Indian football�s poster boy from Bhaichung Bhutia was complete when he surpassed the �Sikkimese Sniper� in the number of matches played for India. � PTI