Mumbai: Sports Minister Manohar Singh Gill has taken a swipe at the national soccer team, saying schoolboys and the old men of the 1956 Olympic team could beat the current crop of internationals, local media reported on Tuesday.
"Sometimes the team is ranked 140, sometimes 120," Gill said at a function celebrating the India team that finished fourth at the Melbourne Olympics.
"I don't know what has happened to Indian football. Now, they may even get beaten by the Australian school team. Even now, you may beat the present Indian team by two goals." Despite his withering remarks, Gill actually underestimated the parlous state of the national team, who are 148th in the FIFA world rankings sandwiched between Tajikistan and Lebanon.
Apart from their fourth place finish at the 1956 Olympics, India were twice Asian Games champions in the 1950s and held their own in continental competitions until the end of the amateur era.
FIFA and Asian soccer officials have pushed to boost the game in India to add momentum to the game's growth in Asia.