India's Overseas Scouting Project to trigger national team representation for NRI footballers
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s repeated mentions of the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in his radio talk show, ‘Mann ki Baat’ has highlighted the tournament’s importance to India’s sporting landscape. Apart from a thriving seasonal entity in the form of the Indian Super League (ISL), All India Football Federation (AIFF), along with FIFA is all set to launch ‘Mision 11 million’ as early as next month.
The grass-root level project will attempt to engage 11 million people across 30 cities in India. Apart from growing interest from the world football’s governing body, AIFF is also looking to groom kids from other countries with their foreign scouting programme. A joint programme between Sports Authority of India (SAI) and AIFF, the Overseas Scouting Project (OSP) will target potential talent in countries with a substantial Indian population. The Pilot three day event in Dubai has seen three boys selected for a three month training stint in Germany.
Former Indian striker, Abhishek Yadav who is currently heading this project, told Sportskeeda, “We are looking at the Gulf region to increase our talent pool. We will also be looking at areas such as Australia, to increase our existent talent pool, these kids learn different training regimes in those countries, and that can be applied back in India. They train in good academies, have access to better infrastructure, hence the talent they show is unbelievable. Some even come from professional academies.”
The player must hold an Indian passport to be a part of the programme. Yadav added, “We have seen a lot of these players who played in different countries for two to three years, and want to represent India. Hence, both AIFF and SAI took the decision to garner more players. These players will get a chance to finally get noticed and most importatntly play for their own country.”
“Most of the NRI youth players train under world class facilities”: AIFF Head of Scouting Abhishek Yadav
He added, “There is no guarantee of its success, but we are trying something new and you never know what we might unearth. These players could play for pro-academies in their countries. For example countries such as UAE and USA allow you to hold your passports for a longer time, hence we want to target that population. We have plans for doing our next programme in Qatar. These players once groomed can play for leagues abroad.”
This particular move could potentially see several foreign academy trained products introduced to the Indian football setup. For example, if a young player training with the Liverpool academy still holds his Indian passport, he can go attend these programmes in order to represent India at lower youth levels. Yadav added, “Yes, this is being done keeping in mind representation in the youth level. However, we found someone who plays local league in Dubai with massive potential, who is in his mid-20’s, so you don’t know what you might unearth.”
The three selected boys will now be trained in Germany for three months under foreign coaches, before going back to India. They will then fight for positions in the various youth levels of Indian football. Yadav added, "From the potential I have seen, a lot of these players are at a very high level, I see them improving vastly in a short span as well.”
Regardless of its success, this particular move is a small stepping stone towards Indian football recognising the talent pool abroad.