Interview with Chinmay Pandya, founder of Indore City Football Academy
In a cricket crazy nation, a silent revolution is taking place. We have seen the rise of new leagues promoting non-cricket sports in a big way. Be it the big bash of Pro Kabbadi, the Badminton league, Football league, Badminton and Tennis League also. The success of Pro-Kabaddi must have given a lot of confidence to other sports that Indians can digest the healthy diet of non-cricket sports too, provided the presentation is good.
The big question that has been hovering around on Indian football scene is that when is India going to be the team to reckon at the world stage. We have pockets of football excellence in places like North-East, Goa and West Bengal, but our hinterland is bereft of any kind of football activity.
Now, to fill this gap, a very novel initiative has been launched by Mr. Chinmay Pandya, AIFF certified Football coach. He has launched a football academy in Indore and it is already making waves. Indore City Football Academy might just be the turning point in popularising the world’s most loved sport in India. The mantra of ICFA is to “Catch them young”.
Let’s hear from the man himself,
How did the idea of starting a Football academy occur to you, India being a cricket-first nation?
India is a cricket first nation, no doubt, but I believe cricket is very much past its peak now. The enthusiasm is still there, but it’s slowly fading into oblivion. I feel so positive about the future of football because I have been around a few cities and academies, I have noticed the dedication and passion for the beautiful game.
I have seen how the next generation already thinks about football, how the parents are so committed to their child’s future in football. I have played a lot of football in the streets when I was a kid and I saw a lot of talent around me go to waste.
It was maybe because of lack of proper training at the right age. I have made a resolve to not let this happen again. I think our country has tremendous potential, and if we start training the next generation at a very young age only the sky is the limit for India.
Why did you choose Indore to establish the academy?
If I want to revolutionize the way football is coached in this country, I have to start with my own back yard, my hometown. I was born and brought up in Indore and I have seen the outstanding following football has in Indore. The kind of talent I have seen here, if the next generation can produce even half of that talent, with proper training at a young age, Indore can produce big footballers.
What were the biggest hurdles you faced leading up to the launch of the academy?
There were a lot of them. I think the biggest one is explaining to the non-football followers, what this academy is all about. We made a resolve to go school to school and provide presentations to the principals and the kids about football in a way they understand. We present football as it is, the beautiful game, and when they understand, no one can stop them from falling in love with the game. It will take a lot of effort, but it is all worth it. This nation is desperately craving for an alternative to cricket, and we are here to give it to them.
How did you convince the parents to let their kids join the academy?
It is a general belief for parents that if you enroll your kid into a football academy, they’re going to be footballers, which quite frankly, is considered an unconventional career. Parents have to understand football is not a distraction from academics. If their kid loves to play football, they should encourage them to go and explore their potential.
It doesn’t necessarily mean their child is not going to be an engineer or a doctor. With this opportunity of right training, and having fun whilst learning, their kid could be the a top footballer. Not all footballers involved in the game will grow up to be footballers only. Doesn’t matter which career they choose, in every field they need to learn to co-operate, communicate, work in a team and be supportive with people. This is what football can give you, and you can carry that for life.
?Where do you see the Academy in next five years?
The future is bright for football in India. I feel that in the next five years, we could expand our reach beyond this city, and even state, into other areas where potential still remains untapped. We, at Indore City Football Academy, want to cover as much ground as possible and spread education, awareness and love for the game of football.
Who were your role models growing up?
Growing up, I was greatly influenced by a number of coaches. I used to love to watch the game, and slowly I learnt to actually observe and analyze, mostly because I followed the work of people like Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Marcelo Bielsa and Pep Guardiola. These people made me want to pursue my dream of being a football coach one day. As a young kid, I was influenced by figures like John Terry and Frank Lampard.
What is the USP of Indore Football academy?
Football is the USP of I.C.F.A! Making the sessions fun, adapting some coaching methods from the best coaches. It’s not an hour and a half of just running around the field aimlessly, it’s pure fun. The child learns through a series of match related games, which aid his/her development and most of all, they have a lot of fun and they keep coming back for more. Our aim at Indore city football academy is to make the kid fall in love with the game.
What is your vision regarding the growth of Football in India?
I think with AIFF coach education programs, many people, myself included, are opting for the career as a football coach. The number increases every year, and with educated and well-informed coaches, training at grassroots levels will improve more and more. Football has been growing in India, with amazing initiatives like the Awadh Mutineers from UP, more and more grass root development programs are popping up all over the country. I believe, with these initiatives, India is set to produce a generation of footballers that are ready to compete for the top competitions, and who knows, even a world cup someday.
What are the main challenges hindering the growth of Football in India?
There are multiple challenges hindering the grown of football in our country. I think the infrastructure still lacks. There are people willing to play and commit, but sadly there are no proper grounds for them. The ground surfaces are such a nightmare, parents refrain from letting their children play on these pitches and they are absolutely right.
Other could be the archaic mindset, in our society, the career as a footballer is unorthodox. If someone chooses to be a footballer instead of CA, engineer, MBA, or civil service, they are seen as the odd one out. The peer pressure and the disapproval from the family will kill the footballer inside him/her.
Which is your favourite club?
I have been supporting and observing Chelsea for a long time. I do like to watch a lot of other leagues from other countries. I watch a lot of football, especially the Bundesliga, and the lower divisions across Europe. I-league has always been very interesting and now with the arrival of ISL, it’s much more fun to watch Indian football.
What are your thoughts on ISL and Reliance Young champs initiative?
I think Reliance have made a terrific contribution to football infrastructure with their young champs initiative. They’re not reaching the stars, but an inch higher. Making football as a career a much more reliable one.
Do you follow sportskeeda.com? We have an app too now.
Yes, I follow sportskeeda.com quite a lot! The thing I like the most about sportskeeda.com is that they don’t follow a particular sport, like the mainstream ones, i.e. cricket. It focuses on more than 30 different sports and giving the ‘not so famous’ sports a big platform to engage a wider audience. Also by covering this grassroots development, sportskeeda team should be mighty proud of themselves. Keep up the terrific work.