At a time when the popularity of football is proliferating in the world’s second most populous country, India’s national football team broke into the top 100 of the Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) rankings of May 2017 for the first time in 21 years. The Men’s national team rose up the rankings ladder by one place to secure the 100th position, the best it has managed since it was ranked 94th in February 1996, an all-time high.
India shares the 100th position with the likes of Estonia, Lithuania and Nicaragua, having scored 331 points to earn the place. Despite the dearth of international football in the month of April 2017, the Blue Tigers bettered their previous ranking of 101 courtesy of African nation Malta, who lost a staggering 42 points.
The Indian Football team has a purple patch, defeating Cambodia 3-2 in Phnom Penh on March 22 in a friendly clash, followed by a historic 1-0 victory over Myanmar in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, the first ever against Myanmar in over 64 years, and a 4-1 win over Puerto Rico. These results propelled India’s rankings from the 129th position in January 2017 to 101st at the end of March 2017.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) General Secretary Kushal Das expressed his thoughts on the rise of India Football by saying: “It’s pleasing that we are presently ranked 100. At the same time, we need to stay aware of the challenge in hand. The AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers UAE 2019 are an acid test for us.” He was supported by the national team head coach, Stephen Constantine. “As long as we keep heading up the ladder, I am happy. It points out that we are heading in the right direction. There are major matches ahead and we cannot take things lightly. There’s no place for complacency”, Constantine was quoted as saying.
India are well-placed when compared to some of its neighbours. Maldives(151), Bhutan(164), Nepal (172), Bangladesh (193), Sri Lanka (197) and Pakistan (201) are way behind India. Iran(28) is the best-placed Asian nation, while India is 11th. The Indians next face Lebanon (137) in a friendly on 7th June before taking on the Kyrgyz Republic (127) in their third round 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier Group A game on 12th June.
The latest FIFA rankings could help in boosting India’s stature as a footballing nation as the country prepares to host its first ever major FIFA tournament later this year, the Under-17 FIFA World Cup.