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Mumbai City FC's 'Baby League' promises to change the structure of Indian football

Mumbai City FCs Baby League promises to change the structure of Indian football

Sounak Mullick

Published: 18 Jan 2018 7:08 AM GMT
The Western India Football Association (WIFA) along with Mumbai City FC launched the AIFF's proposed 'Baby League' in an attempt to improve the grass root level football in our country. It is expected that the tournament will involve a large participation from children starting from the age of five years who will be trained from an early age to build a strong base of players for the future days. The development centres for the project have been launched in Pune and Mumbai. "Currently, kids in these age groups get to play only a handful of competitive games in a year. With the AIFF Baby League, we expect them to play many more games every year," said Mumbai City FC's official Dinesh Nair, as per the reports of IANS. The benefit of the programme is not only confined to the players, it will develop the coaches and more importantly the mindset of the Indian parents. Speaking on the matter, Dinesh said, "Apart from the kids, this initiative also targets the development of coaches in the state and another important group -- the parents. We aim to organise regular workshops and seminars for parents also so that they understand the avenues that football opens up for their kids and encourage them."
Source: Indian Youth Former International players like Bhaichung Bhutia, IM Vijayan, Sukhwinder Singh and Jo Paul Ancheri along with AIFF's Head of Youth Development Richard Hood formulated the plan of actions for the 'Baby League' during their meeting last year in New Delhi. Former technical director Scott O'Donnell and Savio Medeira were also present during that time. The inception of the idea for a development at the roots was back in 2008, but the implementation was not uniform. Mizoram was the only state that offered the course staring that year. As the years rolled on, other states like Bengal, Maharashtra, Manipur, Assam, Kerala, and Goa also launched similar projects. Richard Hood earlier said that India hasn't developed as a football nation; the AIFF should take efforts to involve the children with the game for a greater time in a calendar year just like what is done in Japan. As per the reports of ESPN, he said, "The problem in India is that we haven't moved beyond festivals of football over the last two decades. There is no consistent model of engagement with the sport, and that is a huge part that kids miss out on. In Japan, children are probably engaging with the sport for 52 weeks in a year, and the corresponding number in India is not more than three." It is actually South America which started the habit of instilling the culture of football from junior age groups. Football powerhouses like Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia and Central American Mexico has been successful in conducting similar initiatives in their domestic structure. Hood mentioned about players like Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero who often admitted that they were much competitive during their childhood days and wanted to win a match at all costs. He feels if legends of Indian football like Bhaichung Bhutia and IM Vijayan would have been much-developed footballers if they had got better exposure when they were young.
Source: Sportswallah "It was interesting that India's football greats said much the same. A Bhaichung Bhutia or IM Vijayan played football with the same mental mindset, but then they never had 100 games a year to improve consistently as children. Who knows, maybe they would have been even better players by the time they were 13 or 14 if they had had that kind of exposure," said Hood. Former International Bruno Coutinho is of the idea that this initiative will be the first step for providing young talent with exposure. The system has to work step by step, first, the proper implementation of the plan needs to be done which will ensure the players get utilised in the Indian Super League. From the lot, the best ones could be sent abroad for brushing their shoulders with the best in the business. Regarding the restructuring of the system in our country, Bruno said, 'The first stage is implementing. The benefit for younger players today is they have something like the Indian Super League, where they are playing with some of the best players from around the world. This should inspire them to play abroad. Even if five players are good enough to play abroad and if two out of them make it that will be a huge." Former FIFA regional development officer Shaji Prabhakaran admits that the South American countries have an inbuilt football culture. Children are born into the game, its part of their lives; such a situation is not possible in India. Prabhakaran feels that this initiative should be seen as an opportunity to give the youngsters exposure to the game and make them experienced. Indian Football is one a high, especially in the last couple of years where the 'Blue Tigers' have made a steep ascent in the FIFA rankings. The senior team has qualified for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and the team is currently on an unbeaten streak. It is the perfect time for the AIFF to structure Indian Football in a way which will reap results in future, and the introduction of the 'Baby League' is one of many ways ahead.
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