One of the biggest reasons for India’s failures is the lack of attention given to the development of grassroots football in the past. Installing an effective youth system, revamping and developing it could be the answer to getting the country on the global map. Inspiration can be sought from Germany (the reigning world champions), who completely revamped their youth system after the 2000 Euro debacle.
Things are changing in Indian football
In recent years, football in India has received increased attention on social media, which is diverting some part of the cricket-loving nation towards the beautiful game. People have become more knowledgeable about the intricacies of football. With major clubs like Liverpool, AC Milan and others setting up academies and nurturing talent, there has been a spike in youngsters adopting the game.
To serve this interest, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has joined hands with FIFA in moving towards a structured and professional method of grassroots development. This includes residential academies, certified coaching staff, advanced training methods and equipment, infrastructure, overall development, etc.
The Coca-Cola Cup journey
Although the ISL has generated popularity for the game in the country, it’s the grassroots program being run by the collaborative efforts of Coca-Cola and AIFF that will likely be the precursor for the next Sunil Chhetris to be found in the country. As a company that is focused on football and promoting a healthy lifestyle, Coca-Cola’s initiative provides a platform for budding football stars to convert their dream into a real life profession.
The Coca-Cola Cup was started in 2009, and by 2012, the number of participants had swelled to 41,760 young footballers from 2,610 schools across 87 cities. The venture aims to discover talents that can represent India at the 2017 U-17 World Cup, which is set to be staged in India, and it already has the numbers to get there.
With its reach to several parts of the country, the Coca-Cola Cup is a fantastic vehicle that helps even under-privileged kids realize their dreams. India’s biggest and most inspiring grassroots program aims to propel the country to the upper echelons of the global football.
Promoting a healthy lifestyle
Grassroots football development also focuses on another important aspect – a healthy lifestyle which defines the longevity of a budding footballer. A disciplined diet and fitness regimen are critical in a youngster’s football training and his overall personality development.
Youngsters having aspirations to become professional players need to adhere to a healthy lifestyle, and Coca-Cola attempts that through its grassroots development programmes.
What does the future look like?
The hunt is on to unearth India’s hidden talent and to put before the world India’s next football superstar. The I-League and ISL have already done their bit in creating interest among the masses for
top-level football. Now it is up to the grassroots development programmes to build on the increased interest and convert it into more young players taking up the sport.
Great footballers in India – of the ilk of Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chhetri – have been few and far between. The skill level among Indian footballers needs to catch up to that found in European countries so that India’s world ranking doesn’t remain disappointingly low, the way it has been over the years.
That’s where the Coca-Cola Cup can really help. By showcasing the talent among youngsters in the country, it is attempting to secure the future of Indian football.