Write an Article

A look at the AIFF's regional academies

f

The first All India Football Federation (AIFF)-FIFA academy started in May 2012 in Father Agnel School, Navi Mumbai. It is a laudable venture with Arthus Papas (earlier worked with the elite Australian Institute of Sports) as Head coach and the pint-sized ex-international midfielder Aqueel Ansari as assistant coach.

In September 2011 the AIFF had promised the visiting two-member FIFA Technical Team comprising of Mr. Thierry Regenass, Director Member Associations and Development Vision, FIFA, and Mr. Jean-Michel Benezet, Technical Director, FIFA that four regional academies would be set up by end March 2012. The deadline has expired and the other three regional academies in Bangalore, Kolkata and Delhi have been shelved for a later date.

A major reason for this delayed start is rampant age-group cheating, the bane of Indian sports. About 170 talented players, later pruned to 120 were selected on the basis of their performances in the Subroto Cup, U-16 nationals, U-14 festivals and open trials. Blatant age-fudging ruined AIFF’s plans. The birth certificates and state association’s endorsements of 84 players were found erroneous. MRI scans revealed they were not in either the U-14 or U-16 age category.

For academies to be effective, the game has to be broad based, the catchment areas increased. The AIFF-FIFA academy in Navi Mumbai consists of players from only five states, Assam, Bengal, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala. Hopefully talented players from other states will feature in the three remaining regional academies. To increase the flow of talent from large parts of India, the AIFF must galvanize state associations, many of which exist primarily as vote-banks, to actively organize football activities for all age-groups. Talent flow must not be regional based as is the case with I-league clubs.

Of the 25 states and seven union territories in India, the 14 clubs in next season’s I-League are only from five states, Bengal, Goa, Maharashtra, Meghalaya and Sikkim. This does not represent India. Of the 543 seats in the Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) in 448 constituencies there are no distinguished football clubs. Hence political and media support for Indian football is shrinking annually.  Increased viewership of the Premiership and UEFA Champions League is due to slick TV coverage and popularity of foreign football. It has not increased the fans and supporters of Indian club football.

The AIFF’s statistical booklet on the 2010-11, I-League reveals that the average attendance per match (182 matches were played) was just 3,913. Even in Kolkata, with the two biggest supporter based teams in India the total attendance was just 3, 18,700 and the average 8,172. This figure also got boosted by the 80,000 people who witnessed the Round 13 tie between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. Pune FC, a supposedly well supported team had an average attendance of just 1,925 in their 13 home matches.

So while setting up AIFF-FIFA regional academies is a welcome step, it is really a case of déjà vu as Football academies in India have existed since the mid-eighties.

The Tata Football Academy (TFA) inaugurated in Jamshedpur in 1987 was set up to nurture talent in India. The Nehru Cup international tournaments (held from1982 onwards) and the Super Soccer series organized by the Tatas had revealed the gulf in standards between Indian and international football in the pre-satellite television era. The TFA was modeled on the academy of Brazil’s Sao Paulo Football Club, which visited India in 1984. The academy started on a sprawling 25,000 sq. ft campus with accommodation facility for 40 trainees. TFA provides a host of facilities including a multi-gymnasium, swimming pool, conference, hall, medical unit and recreational room. Since its inception the TFA has been at the forefront of the Indian Youth Development system with regular exposure trips to Brazil and Germany (Sports University in Cologne). Over 100 players from this academy, including Carlton Chapman, Alok Das, Subroto Paul, P. Renedy Singh, Deepak Mondal, Mahesh Gawli, Sur Kumar Singh, 2011 pre-Olympic captain Raju Gaikwad, Lalrindika Ralte and Jeje Lalpekhlua have represented India.

Again in the 1980s the Sports Authority of India launched an ambitious Special Area Games scheme, to unearth talent in football, boxing, archery and athletics from tribal areas. A group of talented football players chosen from the North-eastern states were given intensive coaching in the Nehru stadium, Delhi, from 1987 onwards. Within a couple of years, striker Kiron Khongsai, defender Emmanuel and midfielders Jewel Bey and Gunabir Singh became internationals.

Inspired by the TFA model, Williamson Magor set up an academy for talented players from the North-East in Monabari in 1992, but disbanded it after a decade citing financial reasons. In the new millennium, four academies were set up. The Chandigarh Football Academy, the brain child of the former Administrator of this union Territory Lt. Gen (retd.) J.F.R. Jacob, was inaugurated on 7 August 2000, the Mohun Bagan-SAIL Academy started in Durgapur on 20th July 2003 and the Sesa academy in Sanquelim, Goa a year later. The Premier Indian Football Academy (PIFA) established in Mumbai in 2003 regularly takes talented players to training camps at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium and other European clubs.

Baichung Bhutia’s training centre in Delhi with Portuguese coaches started in 2011. Other privately run academies are the Sikkim Football Academy Gangtok, the Sports and Education Promotion Trust (SEPT), Academy, Kerala, the Simla Youngs Football Academy Delhi and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) academy. The Kerala based academy has played in football tournaments in Sweden and Finland and Simla Youngs’ age-group teams have toured Wales and Sweden. The Liverpool Coaching Academy in India launched as the first Steve McMahon Football Academy (SMFA) in October 2011 at the Genesis Global School in Noida and Laxman Public school in Delhi has enrolled kids in the under-8, under-10, under-12, under-14 and under-16 age-groups.

An academy is supposed to cater to the cream of available talent. But the creamy layer is not going to exist if the milk supply is either limited or tainted.


Cristiano Ronaldo wins 2015/16 UEFA Best Player in Europe award Ronaldo beats Antoine Griezmann and Gareth Bale to the award
EPL Transfer Rumour: West Ham Eyeing Chelsea Striker Loic Remy The Frenchman made only 13 appearances for the Blues last season.
2016/17 Champions League group stage draw: Barcelona and Bayern Munich drawn in tough groups Pep Guardiola will see Manchester City face his former club Barcelona while Atletico Madrid face Bayern Munich
Twitter reacts to UEFA Champions League 2016/17 draw That time of the year when Champions League group stage draws are announced. Here's how Twitter reacted:
Transfer news and rumours of the day: 25th August, 2016 All the transfer news and rumours across Europe in one place. For you.
UEFA Champions League 2015/16: Lionel Messi awarded goal of the season for superb strike against Roma There is no stopping Lionel Messi as he bags yet another award
EPL team of the decade - 2000s Paul Scholes and Cristiano Ronaldo obviously makes the list, but who else?
Barcelona signs five-year contract with Cillessen
Liverpool transfer news: Mario Balotelli in talks with OGC Nice The Liverpool striker has flown to France for negotiating a transfer move to OGC Nice. The player's contract with the Reds ends in 2017.
UEFA Champions League 2016/17 Draw Follow live updates from the draw of the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League on Sportskeeda.com
EPL transfer rumour: Southampton agree fee for Sofiane Boufal The Saints are set to make Sofiane Boufal their costliest signing.
EPL 2016/17: Manchester City confirm they have signed Claudio Bravo from Barcelona Bravo joins on a 4 year deal for a reported 17 million pound fee
Jordon Ibe - A name slipping into footballing obscurity Jordon Ibe has found life tough ever since making the move to Liverpool and could become a victim of his own success at a very young age.
Cristiano Ronaldo's surgeon stunned by his physical ability, calls him a Scholar and a Monster Doctor Noronha expects Cristiano Ronaldo to bounce back from injury.
5 world class players who don't get the attention they deserve These players are absolutely vital for their teams, but they do not get the attention they deserve
Manchester United will respect Europa League, says Herrera
Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen confirms he's signed for FC Barcelona The 27-year-old will essentially replace Claudio Bravo at the Camp Nou.
The Kolkata derby has been confirmed for the CFL and will take place on September 7th India's biggest footballing event will take place on the 7th of September.
DSK Shivajians FC set to debut in historic Durand Cup The Durand Cup is the third oldest football tournament in the world.
Ronaldo voted UEFA's 2015-16 Best Player in Europe
Fetching more content...
Related articles