'Past failures not in our control': AIFF Gen Sec on execution failures of past roadmaps
"We are honestly accepting our problems and we will work on it," AIFF general secretary Shaji Prabhakaran on execution of AIFF strategic roadmap.
New Delhi: All India Football Federation (AIFF) announced the much-awaited strategic roadmap for Indian football as 'Vision 2047'. The roadmap is an elaborate planning of the upcoming 25 years focusing on 11 core areas to strengthen Indian football.
With a dream to make India a top footballing nation in Asia by 2047 and FIFA World Cup in sight, the President and General Secretary duo of Kalyan Chaubey and Shaji Prabhakaran made tall claims about the development of Indian football in a 94-slide document on Saturday.
But for Indian fans, such promises are not a new thing. In past, the administrators have come up with the similar promises and claims but failed to execute even 1% of them.
The Bridge caught up with Shaji Prabhakaran (General Secretary, AIFF) to discuss certain aspects of the newly-unveiled strategic roadmap in detail.
Challenges of Strategic Roadmap Execution
"What happened in past is not under our control as we were not involved. We have challenges and it is known to everyone. Our strategic roadmap talks about the solutions majorly. We have outlined problem areas and solutions for those problems in the document," Shaji Prabhakaran said about the roadmap and past failures of execution.
In the past, various plans by the AIFF were drafted and revealed with much promise and hope. Be it Vision 2010, or the 2010-2014 Goal Project (aimed to see India at the World Cup), most of the goals mentioned in the plans never seemed to see the light of day.
Even if some did come to life, the same took at least a decade to get incorporated in the structure of Indian Football.
He added further, "We are honest in accepting our problems and plan to work towards eradicating those. It is an honest approach to elevate Indian football through collaboration and partnership. I am pretty sure we will achieve the majority of the targets through teamwork here at AIFF."
Sexual Harassment and Other Grievances
Indian football has been rocked by a few shocking instances of harassment in the past few years including sexual harassment of players in the national camp, and bullying of clubs by officials and fans facing multiple problems.
READ: Alex Ambrose, coach charged with sexual misconduct, linked with IWL club
Answering harassment problems related to Indian football, Shaji said, "We are serious and have a zero-tolerance policy for such cases. We have appointed a safeguarding officer whose job is to look at all the grievances. Our policies and guidelines on any kind of harassment are ready so that nobody experiences all these things."
Now it will be interesting to see how these policies and the safeguarding officer will eradicate hooliganism in Indian football and make it a safe space.
Emphasis on Talent Identification
Ironically, India is still dependent on their 38-year-old mercurial captain Sunil Chhetri for the goals and the system has failed to produce one talent who can replace him in the national team.
"We need a competitive structure from the grassroots level. ISL has increased the professionalism among Indian players but we lack a solid talent system which produces quality players consistently. We have identified this weakness and we will work with all the clubs together to strengthen this part. We don't have a shortcut to this, we will have to work hard," Shaji emphasised.
He further added, "We as a federation have to expose and create a talent identification system which will put Indian talents on display for the world. Our biggest job is to enable this ecosystem of talent identification."
AIFF has had previous attempts at similar talent-identifying projects like the Elite Youth League and Indian Arrows (formerly known as Pailan Arrows) but they were discontinued eventually. The newly proposed strategic roadmap talks about a robust grassroots development system and pipeline of talent identification from bottom to top.
The gap between fans and AIFF
Indian football fans and communities have been quite vocal on social media platforms and expressed displeasure over the conduct of AIFF.
The lack of live streaming for National team games, no communication with fans and lack of accountability in the functioning of AIFF have been pain points for all the fans equally.
"In the new proposed business division, we have a consumer services section which will take care of fan engagement and their complaints. From now on, wherever India is playing, it will be worked out in advance and shared with the fans," he said.
"It is challenging when the matches are aboard, as we are dependent on the other federations. The whole process is long and sometimes it doesn't work out. Now, we have a dedicated digital and broadcasting team which will work towards this problem," Shaji assured that fan engagement will be the top priority for AIFF.
Nonetheless, it will be a tricky job for the new administration at the AIFF to win over fans given the history of broken promises, failed executions and lack of accountability.
While AIFF has laid out an ambitious plan for the future in their roadmap, the execution and implementation remain its biggest challenge. For the fans of Indian football, this looks like just another promise made by those in power. Whether they get something this time or will be left heartbroken, only time will tell.