Pune, a few days ago saw the launch of the Abhijit Kadam Football Development Centre (AKFDC). In order to know more about this development, we spoke to the Director of one of the 3 partners of this project – Steve Bellis of Kick Worldwide.
Please tell us a little bit about Kick Worldwide? What does the company do and why did its participation in this project in India make sense for it?
Our core aim is to build, support and service grassroots football in countries without a sophisticated football development infrastructure. We achieve this through our highly successful TV talent search format – Soccer Prince and through establishing Kickworldwide Soccer Institutes/Football Development Centres with partnering academic institutions, the English Football Association, English Premier League Football Clubs and education delivery partner partnership in the UK.
India is one of the fastest growing football markets in the world. As well as having an abundance of real talent, India also has a very well educated population who are looking for new long term career options. The Football and Sports Industry can provide such opportunities.
What specific expertise does Kick Worldwide bring to this project? What do the other two partners, Liverpool FC and Bharati Vidyapeeth bring to this joint venture?
We have great experience in the development of football, and have also assisted developing markets such as China and Vietnam. Kickworldwide brings appropriate and like minded partners form the UK, including leading football brands such as Liverpool FC and established academic partners.
Liverpool bring one of the world’s greatest football brands and vast experience in terms of youth development.
Bharati Vidyapeeth provide an excellent infrastructure and a wealth of experience in the provision of first class education.
What does the AKFDC hope to achieve? Could you describe the kind of courses, duration and capacity of this football centre?
The AKFDC has been created to achieve the following:
- Create new career opportunities for young Indian people in the field of sport and football in particular.
- Provide young Indian people with genuine qualifications that are internationally transferable.
- Provide these opportunities to a number of underprivileged young people through scholarships.
- Create genuine sports professionals to enhance the development of the football industry infrastructure in India.
- Provide Indian Football with quality home grown coaches and referees.
- To identify real football talent and nurture it to the highest possible levels to enhance the playing levels in India.
The courses include the following:
- Football Playing within the Academy. One year rolling courses in age groups from Under8’s to Under 18’s
- International Football coaching courses at Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced levels. Various course durations.
- Refereeing courses from Level One to professional level. Various course durations.
- National Diploma in Sports Science. Two year course. (second year in UK)
- National Diploma in Sports Turf Management. Two year course. (Second Year in UK)
- National Diploma in Football Industry Management. Two Year course. (Second Year in UK)
- National Diploma in Sports Photography. Two Year course. (Second Year in UK)
- National Diploma in Sports Law. Two Year course. (Second Year in UK)
Is your company also involved with the proposed Chelsea talent hunt/reality TV show to be aired on ESPN Star Sports? Could you give us an estimate of how that program would be run?
No! We have a different format which is a genuine reality TV format that will be aired later this year on a General Entertainment Channel. The show will be called ‘Soccer Prince’ and will include the winner joining the Liverpool FC Academy for one year, with the aim of developing into a genuine professional footballer. Our production partners are Fremantle media who created, among others, the hit show ‘Indian Idol’. Soccer Prince China attracted an audience of 130 million but we are more excited about India having seen the talent and enthusiasm for football here.
I am sure you know that youth coaching in India is not much to write home about. Would you be letting the kids know what they would be getting tested on well in advance or would the kids be going in and getting tested under skills tests that they would ordinarily not be aware of (in the Indian context)?
The initial tests are quite basic and subjective. The kids will know what these are in advance of auditions. The auditions will be held all over India, including in some of the less developed areas, where the talent exists.
Can you tell us about the Chinese experience with this kind of a talent hunt? Did that program unearth any serious talent or was it just TV entertainment?
The show has two main aims: To be genuinely entertaining and therefore attract a wide demographic audience. To achieve this, the format is more about the human journey of the contestants rather than about watching kids play football, which is very limited in terms of entertainment.
A press report in the Indian Express mentioned that a squad of 20 players (U15 and U17) will also be scouted. Will these kids be housed and coached at this facility? Will these kids be scouted separately or will they come from the TV talent hunt?
Initially the two age groups at the AKFDC will be under 13’s and under 15’s. These will be scouted separately to the show and the Academy Director of Liverpool FC, Frank McParland will be joining me in India on 7th/8th/9th May to start this process. Kids from the Show will however be scouted for the AKFDC in the future.
Does Kick Worldwide have any other Indian based plans that you can share at this point in time?
During the last two years or so I have been to India around 16 times, which I hope is an indication of how important India is to our company. India has become our priority largely due to the genuine desire by the country to develop its football infrastructure. The leading figure has been Mr Vishwajeet Kadam and through his enthusiasm and professionalism, (and our help) I genuinely believe that Indian Football will be a real force in the very near future.
The AIFF has been extremely supportive and this was evident by the attendance of both Mr Praful Patel and Mr. Alberto Colaco at the recent launch of the AKFDC in Pune. Our future plans in clued the creation of some satellite FDC’s in the football metros of India and the creation of new foundation courses in coaching and refereeing in the less developed areas of India providing a pyramid of development that will give even the most underprivileged young people of India a REAL opportunity to have a career in football and sport. We are currently working on a timescale that will see this pyramid developed within the next twelve months.
Many thanks for taking the time to speak with us.Published 08 May 2010, 08:54 IST