Tapping up of footballers threat to modern ecosystem of Indian Football

Football has emerged as one of the most popular sports around the world in the last ten-fifteen years with increased coverage and globalisation. 

Footballing fixtures like the Merseyside Derby and Der Klassiker now command the attention of millions around the world which was earlier reserved for premier fixtures like the El Classico. 

This has resulted in a burning ambition in every club around the world to reign supreme and prove their authority over any opposition. They have certainly been backed in this regard by a massive increase in revenue following commercial deals, advertisements amongst others.

This ambition has further reflected in the intensity of transfer dealings for some of the best footballers in the world. It is hardly an uncommon sight to witness a player being linked to a big club for a sum close to a 100 million euros or even higher considering the inflation in the market. 

Cristiano Ronaldo was signed by La Liga giants Real Madrid from Manchester United for a world record sum of 80 million pounds back in 2009. The same sum is currently being commanded by the likes of Frenkie de Jong who recently completed a big-money move from Ajax to FC Barcelona.

However, with the increasing positives in the world of football, there have also been several negative effects which have crept in. One of those negative effects is the practice of ‘tapping’ a player from another club.

‘Tapping’ as a concept has emerged in recent times as clubs increasingly desperate for success, enjoying massive financial backing attempt to sign players from other clubs at any cost. There have been several attempts at tapping reported in recent times with some of the more high-profile players involved being Virgil Van Dijk and Antoine Griezman.

Former Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk was approached illegally by Liverpool during his tenure with the club. The former decided to report this approach to the Premier League authorities, with the development a late twist to the transfer saga surrounding the Netherlands defender.

Rules governing transfers state that clubs can negotiate terms with players only in case a contract or transfer fee has been agreed with the selling club. The guidelines also bar any approaches in an indirect fashion or via intermediaries.  Interestingly, Liverpool had previously been punished for the same offence last year after attempting to sign an academy player from English club Stoke City.

French striker Antoine Griezman was similarly caught in the eye of the storm after Atletico Madrid reported Barcelona for repeated contact between the club and the player. The Spanish giants had earlier been handed a one-year transfer ban for illegally recruiting foreign minors back in 2015.

According to Barcelona-based sports daily Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu had attempted to convince Griezman’s family by meeting them personally. The club had further expressed a desire to pay the French striker’s buyout chase in order to avoid any possible negotiations with Atletico Madrid.

These instances are examples of how tapping has affected modern football with some of the best players in the world targeted in this fashion. However, what makes this issue an area of massive concern for the football fans back home are the increasing instances of tapping up of potential stars by major footballing clubs.

One of the prime examples of tapping in Indian football is the recent controversy surrounding ISL giants FC Pune City and I-league outfit Chennai City. Chennai City were hailed by one and all for their excellent performances in the previous season which enabled them to finish the season as league champions.

One major factor in this regard was the excellent form on show from midfielder Nestor Gordillo who made his presence felt with goals and assists on a regular basis. While Gordillo smashed eight goals, he further contributed with numerous assists to ensure the perfect display from the heart of midfield.

However, the Coimbatore-based outfit decided to seek the intervention of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) when there were clear indications that the footballer was not thinking straight. Further investigation by the club also revealed that the ISL franchise had secured the services of the footballer for the upcoming season without seeking their consent or acknowledgement for the same.

“We have him (Nestor Gordillo) under contract till June 2020.  When we came to know that other clubs were trying to sign him, we asked him and his agent whether they had signed any contract via written communication. They categorically denied the same,” stated a top Chennai City official as quoted by Goal.Com.

“We were happy that we could plan for the upcoming season with Gordillo but then things turned strange. Gordillo tried to get his contract cancelled with us which is when we came to know that Pune City have signed him without informing us. So, we have shared all the communication and proof with the AIFF and have asked them to intervene,” he added.

Indian football is steadily developing at a considerate pace at this stage and the emergence of small clubs like Chennai City FC is certainly good news for the country’s future in the sport.

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter had previously described Indian football as a “sleeping giant” which was starting to wake up presenting an indication of the massive potential that is present in our footballing eco-system.

However, practices like tapping up emerging talents from small clubs need to be discouraged from the very onset if Indian football wishes to emerge as a league comprising of several title contenders.

 The I-League has witnessed the dominance of outfits like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in the past. This seems set to change with the emergence of small clubs like Real Kashmir FC, Chennai City FC capable of putting up a fight despite lacking resources but enjoying a strong will.

 There is need for a stern, ruthless approach towards barring any form of “tapping” at any stage or level of the Indian footballing structure. This will go a long way in ensuring seamless development, further playing a factor in achieving the Indian dream of achieving a much-coveted spot in the FIFA World Cup.

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featured image credit sky sports