The popularity of football in India has been growing faster by the day. There are some factors that have contributed to the garnering of viewership of this sport like the Hero I-League, the Indian Super League (ISL), FIFA U17 World Cup, and the upcoming FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup. It is also important to note that several initiatives at the grassroots level like the AIFF Golden Baby Leagues have also geared the participation among the little ones. At the administrative level, the Association of Indian Football Coaches (AIFC) has brought about a remarkable improvement in terms of the welfare, education, and training development of Football Coaches.
A lot was committed and being done for football players and coaches around the nation. However, what was missing and was probably much needed was a representation of football clubs in India. Unfortunately, there are several clubs in this nation which have kind of opened and shut due to several reasons. These clubs range from the cream layer of Indian Football to the last level known in every district of India. The reasons are majorly attributed to administrative issues & financial issues at the highest level. At the lower level, there is a lack of knowledge in terms of running a football club and sustaining as one to reach higher levels. The same could be applied to academies all over the country.
To address these issues and bring about a humongous change in the way football clubs & stand-alone academies have been run and perceived in India, the Association of Football Clubs & Academies in India (AFCAI) was launched on the auspicious occasion of the Independence Day of India. On 15th August 2020, Mr. Ranjit Bajaj, Founder of Minerva Academy FC and Director of the AFCAI, announced the formation of the association and invited all clubs and academies to be a part of the body.
The webinar was attended by over 300 participants who had to pre-register with all details. Mr. Bajaj explained the importance of the association and how it would benefit any club or academy that would be a part of it. Along with him, Mr. Shrungar Raul and Mr. Rohit D’Souza, who are well known in the Mumbai Football fraternity, are on board as Founding Directors of the AFCAI. Mr. Shrungar Raul is the founder of Anstrengung United which is a Mumbai based Football & Hockey club. On the other hand, Mr. Rohit D’Souza is the founder of Mumbai Strikers SC which is seated at the Elite Division of Mumbai Football and is a multi-sport club.
A webinar was held to make the formal announcement and Mr. Bajaj also informed that there were several renowned footballing figures from India who would join him on the Board. The association was formed with a view to helping each club right from inception to reaching their long-term goals in the football circuit. It aims to groom and help each club develop in terms of running operations to managing finances and also give a hand in managing and solving club and academy related issues.
“It is high time and very important that we address the issues of football clubs and academies in India. Club culture has to be developed and we will also help clubs reach out to communities which in turn would increase the fan base. We want to help clubs develop and sustain in a manner that they reach their goals. There are associations and bodies meant for the development of coaches and players, but coaches and players belong to clubs, and so the welfare of a football club or academy is also important. Many people are on course to join us and are convinced with the requirement of such a body”, quoted Mr. Bajaj.
There are several bodies of similar nature that represent clubs in Europe and Australia and the US. There is a representation of top clubs like Barcelona, Juventus, Chelsea FC through the European Club Association (ECA), and in Australia, the Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) perform the same function. In November last year, FIFA announced the formation of a World Football Club Association (WFCA). The newly formed association aims to be a platform for clubs from around the world to discuss issues with FIFA.
Delighted with the response, the Director of AFCAI Mr. Ranjit Bajaj said, "we are elated with the response of over 200 memberships in the first 24 hours itself and hoping hundreds will join in the coming weeks hopefully".
The Football Players Association of India (FPAI) which is a long-running association of players has been doing well with respect to grievances of professional football players. The inception of the Association of Indian Football Coaches (AIFC) has gathered a lot of mileage among the football coaches in India. While the primary aim of the AIFC is the holistic development of coaches in the country, it also works in sync with the AIFF and has brought about a positive change in the coach education policies.
Of late, an association addressing issues related to Indian Women’s Football clubs has also been formed, which is a huge step towards women’s football. With similar intentions, the AFCAI has been formed, but with a different methodology altogether and to help bridge the gap between the thousands of clubs in India and the All India Football Federation (AIFF). The AFCAI wishes to work in tandem with the AIFF and intends to help as many existing clubs and new clubs on their path to development.