Assam takes giant step in talent development through its Baby League
Now, even kids can get a kick out of playing football in Guwahati as the state on Tuesday launched the Greater Guwahati Baby League (GGBL), slated to begin from the end of November.
Taking a cue from the other northeastern states, Assam too has taken a giant leap with the announcement of its baby league, which will be organised by Sportscraft Management and Guwahati City FC in association with the Assam Football Association.
The league will come under the umbrella of the All India Football Federation's ambitious Baby League project and is registered in the Baby League app.
"We aim to revive the footballing culture in Assam with the introduction of the Greater Guwahati Baby League," Darick Ranjan Deka, the co-founder of SportsCraft management, told reporters.
The GGBL hopes to provide kids aged between six and 13 a platform to develop their football talent by organising competitive matches. The first season of the league will run for four to five months from the end of November. The kids will be divided into four age groups (6-7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13) and matches will be held on the weekends. Matches of the baby league will be held in multiple venues across the city and the teams would be divided into different zones depending on their bases.
"The objectives of the baby league are to bring kids to the field regularly, create a footballing culture, provide them with the experience of professional games and give them enough competitive time every season so that they are able to show their best when they reach the age of 13. Thirteen because it is at this age that a player becomes ready to take the leap into professional football," Siddhartha Sankar Deka, co-founder of Sportscraft Managment and Guwahati City FC, said.
The organisers were hopeful that the introduction of the baby league would bridge the gap between India and other countries in the future, given that the country is lagging seven to 10 years behind European nations in its quality of football.
A footballer in Europe, at the age of 13, generally gets to play around 300 competitive matches from the age of six. An Indian, on the other hand, begins developing his skills at this age. The baby league is structured in such a way that every player or team plays a minimum of 36 matches during a season, ensuring a child starting at the age of six would record at least 250 competitive games under his belt.
Terming the Baby League project a historic chapter for Assam, AFA secretary Ankur Dutta felt the league would accelerate the grassroots development programme in the state. Dutta hoped that the baby league would go a long way in curbing age fudging. He argued that a footballer now will have register himself with the AIFF Central Database System at the age of six to play in the Baby League. And once he features in the competition, he will be unable to change his age at a later stage, Dutta said.
With the announcement of the Baby League, the AFA became the fifth state association in the country to take up the project. States like Mizoram, Meghalaya, Maharashtra and West Bengal have already started their baby league programs. Further, a lot of private companies and clubs like Fateh Hyderabad FC have also begun their baby leagues across the country.
Mizoram was the first state to start the baby league concept but Meghalaya provided a professional touch to it. It will be interesting to see if Assam can emulate the success its neighbouring states with the baby league.
With India international players like Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Jeje Lalpekhlua owning Baby League teams in their respective states, it will also be interesting to see if India players hailing from Assam like Halicharan Narzary, Vinit Rai, and Alen Deory come forward to support the initiative.