AIFF to start baby league concept in Assam to scout for young talent
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) wants football at the grassroots in the Northeast. Delivering the 3rd Pulin Das Memorial Lecture on the Contributions of the Northeast in Growth of Football in India, Vice-President Larsing M. Sawyan on the need for popularising football at the grassroots level in the region. He spoke about the new concept of a baby league, a miniature form of football, meant for the players aged between six and 12 years.
He pointed that implementation of this model does not require huge infrastructure or a lot of expenditure. He informed that the AIFF will promote the concept in a big way as through this initiative, new talents can be spotted and nurtured. The event which was held on 16 June was organised by the Assam Sports Journalists’ Association in association with Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd. The vice president also highlighted the need for more footballers from Assam since it was the biggest and most populous state in the Northeast. “There is no dearth of talent here. Assam has it in abundance but there is something amiss somewhere which is delaying the desired result. It’s high time Assam grabbed its position.”
Sawyan spoke about the contribution of the region towards football in the country and explained that over 50 per cent of the Indian senior football team camp over the past one year comprised of players from eastern India, of which, more than 38 per cent were from the Northeast. Similarly, he added, the Under-17 Fifa World Cup probably comprise more than 51 per cent of players from the Northeast.
“It is this legacy shown by the northeasterners in the Tata Football Academy that has been nurturing talents and connected the Northeast with the rest of the country over the past three decades,” Sawyan, also the owner of Shillong Lajong FC said. “The concept of playing in the I-League figured in the agenda of Shillong Lajong FC which fructified within a very short time.” The Northeast is the Mecca of Indian football. There is not a single club in the top tier either which does not have a player from the region. In the National Women’s Football Team, 15 out of the 20 player squad representing India are Women from Northeast India. Another statistic stating the growing status of the women’s football in Northeast is that out of 188 players who competed in the First edition of the Indian Women’s League, more than 100 were the region.
Infrastructure is the key as far as sporting success goes. Indian sporting infrastructure (or the lack of it) is always a hot topic of discussion, at least during major sporting events. As far as football in the region goes, the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium in Guwahati is undoubtedly one the best football venues in the country. This has paved the way for big ticket events like the Indian Super League to come this far. The quality of the turf is much better than most other centres in the country and that has been acknowledged by top national and international footballers alike.
The Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation, despite being reluctant initially, have agreed to present the roadmap for the development of football in India which would be a shot in the arm for the AIFF initiatives. “The road map will be a well-planned one because their intention will be only development of football and they are the right people to do it. We are expecting it after the Under-17 World Cup in October,” the vice president said.
Sawyan also underscored the role of the clubs in the development of infrastructure and mentioned the role of a few clubs around the world. “If we see the global trend, the clubs have played a major role in building the national teams in some of the top football-playing nations. Most of the players of Spain’s national team are the product of Barcelona FC and Real Madrid’s youth Foundation which has won the World Cup. The same thing is with the German national team.”Sawyan said that in India, very few clubs have bothered to develop infrastructure on their own. He said that there were constraints like finance which could be overcome with sincere efforts. He made a case for support from the corporate sector and the government.
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