All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary Kushal Das and players registered with the sport's apex body in the country hailed the Odisha government for its support to the development of Indian football. The AIFF had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Odisha government in 2018 and a number of teams - U-15, U-17, Indian Arrows and even the senior women's side - have been given access to its state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure since then.
Das highlighted the "major impact" of the partnership on the sport in India and thanked the state government for its "invaluable support". "The MoU with the Government of Odisha has had a major impact on the development of Indian Football. A number of teams have been hosted and trained making use of the state-of- the-art facilities at the Kalinga Stadium complex. I thank the Government of Odisha for their invaluable support and look forward to continuing the relationship in strengthening the efforts for the continued growth of the sport in the country," Das said in an AIFF release.
The Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar was the home venue for the Indian Arrows for the 2018-19 season of the I-League, and has hosted both editions of the Hero Super Cup, along with the Hero Gold Cup in February last year, where the Indian senior women's team faced off against Myanmar, Nepal and Iran. "Sports continues to be a top priority for the Government of Odisha. The Odisha High Performance Centre for National Youth Teams mark a convergence between the vision of the Govt. of Odisha and the All India Football Federation," said sports secretary Vishal Kumar Dev.
"The Govt. of Odisha, along with AIFF, is committed to strengthening the roots of Indian Football at the youth level in Odisha and India. This is a unique initiative, one, which other states would also do well to emulate, and thereby contribute to rapid development of the Indian football landscape," he added. Midfielder Amarjit Kiyam, currently a member of the men's senior national team, talked about the "perfect infrastructure" at the Kalinga Stadium, which he feels enabled all members of the Indian Arrows (2018-19 batch) to play a stylish brand of football while enjoying some memorable results.
"The stadium pitch was perfect. It allowed us to play our possession-style game which was a key feature of that Arrows team. The training pitch was excellent too and had floodlights which allowed us to train in the evening as well. Where in India do you get that," he quipped. "It was a really memorable experience for all of us in the team. We did well in the Hero I-League that season and for me, it was a good campaign as I scored five goals too. In the first Hero Super Cup, we had come very close to defeating Mumbai City FC and in the next edition, we got the better of a top Hero ISL side like Kerala Blasters. That match was really special for us and I consider it to be the benchmark that I strive to achieve in terms of my performance," Amarjit, who captained India in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017, said.
Amarjit Kiyam (Source: Khel Now)
Blue Tigers defender Narender Gahlot, who was part of the Indian Arrows unit in 2018-19, recalled his team's stay at the "fully-professional set-up" in Bhubaneshwar. "The facilities we received were absolutely wonderful. It had everything a footballer needs and everything was taken care of. At KIIT, we had a gym, swimming pool, mess as well as a lecture hall for team meetings. The rooms we stayed in were spacious and fantastic, and we were also provided with a variety of nutritious options during our meals," Narender said. "The whole experience laid down a great foundation for us as it allowed us to focus on our game completely and express ourselves on the field," he added. Bhubaneswar has been selected as one of the venues for the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup and is also slated to host the FIFA World Cup Qualifying match between India and Qatar.