August 13, 2009

The BCCI's friendly pass

Kanishkaa Balachandran

Never again let it be said that the BCCI doesn’t have a heart. Even as the world unites to rail against its greed, arrogance and other deadly sins, the Indian board has sanctioned a grant worth Rs 25 crores ($5 million) for the All-India Football Federation (AIFF). India isn’t short of football fans – it’s an emerging market eyed by FIFA and the Premiership – but it does lack a national team worth cheering (India have qualified once for the World Cup – in 1950). Now they have the 2011 Asian Cup finals in Qatar to aim for, and plan to use the BCCI’s grant for their "Goal 2011" project, in which 25 top players will be taken off club duty for nine months to build the team.

It isn’t, though, an act of reckless charity. Indian cricket is headed (de facto, if not de jure) by Sharad Pawar, a minister in the federal government and a member of the Nationalist Congress Party from Maharashtra; Indian football is headed by Praful Patel, a minister in the federal government and a member of the Nationalist Congress Party from Maharashtra. So you could say there is sound reasoning for them to play ball.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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