The city of Bengaluru will witness its first ever Baby League – a player development initiative launched by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in June 2017, called The Community League. Launched on July 1st, 2018, The Community League will host competitive matches featuring 30 teams in three age categories at the grassroots level.
The concept of the Baby League is drawn from nations in south and central America like Uruguay, Argentina, Mexico, Chile & Colombia, which have contributed some of the best footballers playing in the top European Leagues. This programme is intended to involve participation from children starting from the age of five years, by creating a platform for competition and as well as skills development.
The Baby League is at the centre of AIFF’s strategy to reboot the grassroots development of football in the country, and The Community League (TCL) in Bengaluru is the latest addition, and the first in Karnataka, to join Mumbai (Maharashtra), Champal (Mizoram) & Shillong (Meghalaya), where the league has already been run with tremendous success.
The first edition of TCL will feature teams from some of the elite football academies in Bengaluru, with matches taking place every weekend over a five-month period (July to November) at Play Arena (Sarjapur Road) and soon in other locations in the city as well. The league caters to teams in three age categories (U8, U10 & U12) where each team will play 20+ games in their category. It can be said that this is the first league in the city where young teams have the opportunity to play these many games across an extended period of time.
TCL is officially recognized and supported by All India Football Federation and Karnataka State Football Association (KSFA). Richard Hood, Head of Player Development, AIFF was in attendance at the launch. The first game week saw over 400 kids participate in a total of 15 games.
Richard Hood, in his address at the launch event quoted, “I am extremely pleased that Bengaluru is finally adopting the concept of the Baby League. The city has always had tremendous potential and the Baby League is something that will help strengthen the existing football culture all the way to its roots.”
TCL has been conceptualized and organized by the Federation for Community Sports (FCS), an organization dedicated to elevating the importance of grassroots level sports in India. When asked about what the federation looks to achieve, Sunanda Das, President of FCS quoted, “The FCS aims to empower sportspersons and the youth by creating platforms that not only uplift players but also involves the community in the overall success and journey these young individuals. The role of a community is often under-looked and at FCS, we believe that the community can be the accelerator that fosters an ecosystem that nurtures talent, which is why we have named our first initiative The Community League.”
Sarthak Dubey, Technical Officer, TCL was quoted saying “We hope that the TCL will be a revolutionary initiative that in Karnataka that not only pioneers the AIFF’s Baby League strategy in Karnataka, but also fosters an environment for player development. Our vision is to provide a platform for children which allows them to express themselves on the field and develop skills at a young age that Indian Football lacks today.”
When asked about the future pathway of The Community League, Preetham Chandra, General Secretary of FCS explained, “With this initial step, we have 30 teams that are participating in one venue. This shows that there is tremendous scope for expansion and we are doing this step by step. TCL will operate in multiple places in Bangalore, to engage communities in all the different zones, and then further in other districts in the state as well, taking football to all regions of Karnataka.”