Harmit : Nirvan, please give us a feel of the passion for soccer in India? Despite the IPL hype, the infatuation of mass media with cricket and cricketers, does India and do Indians really care for soccer?
Nirvan: Over the past few years, Indians are becoming more sports conscious. There are scores of children choosing football over cricket, the packed grounds with children playing football in all cities, the various state association leagues, the inter school league, Indian players listed on the FIFA 10 games, the various products being advertised with football as a theme, are all an indication of the growing passion for the sport in India.
Indian cricket is successful and they are being run like a corporate. The IPL is one of the best packaged products in the sports world. It is only natural to see the media play their part. However, a growing number of Indians are passionate about soccer and would opt to watch soccer over cricket. Indian Football is on the rise.
Harmit : How about passion for Indian football? A lot of the urban rich just follow international football and kids are not aware of Indian teams or players (either at the club level or national level)? Would you say while there may be passion for football among the rich urban kids, passion for Indian Football is decidedly less?
Nirvan: The passion for Indian Football is increasing. A lot more kids now know about Indian Football especially their local city clubs and the National team even though they follow the EPL because it is very well televised. There is certainly an awareness growing which was not there earlier. Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chettri are now synonymous with Indian Football. There are a lot of rich urban kids attending city & state trials with a dream to represent their state and India.
Harmit : Tell us about the different age based teams that PIFA has and what have they achieved in the past few years?
Nirvan: We participated in the MDFA Senior division with our community based team PIFA Colaba Youngstar FC in 2006-2007 season, the team was primarily made up of young boys from Colaba area and the academy. We won two consecutive promotions that is from Senior to Super to Elite. In 2009, we were invited by South African Football Association to participate in the Gauteng Future Champions U17 Tournaments. Our team were in the same pool as Inter Milan, it was such a fantastic experience.
We enrolled two youth teams for the MDFA league, an U-15 and U-19 team for the first time this season 2009-2010 in the Fourth and First Division as PIFA Colaba FC U15 & PIFA Colaba FC U19 respectively. Our U15 earned a promotion to 3rd division while our U19 team finished 3rd in the promotion play off.
PIFA has been appointed to run the football program at NSS Hillspring International School. For the first time ever, in the school footballing history all the teams that particiapted in the MSSA Interschool Football Tournament, i.e. boys U10, U12, U14 & U16 all reached the quarter finals. The girls U16 team were Mumbai City DSO Winners. Further, the U14 girls and boys were the semifinalists of the Milind Deora South Mumbai Football Tournament.
The QPR talent hunt was won by PIFA student Hussain Vahanvaty of St Mary’s ISC and the top girl was Rhea Jafer of Hill Spring International School. The PIFA boys U15 team were also semi-finalists of the Arsenal Jago Re Soccer Tournament. We have a number of girls & boys representing the state & national team.
In 2008-2009, the Maharashtra state girls U14 team came second in the AIFF National Football Festival while the Maharashtra U14 boys came third in the 54th National School games 2009 both teams were coached by me.
Harmit : Tell us about PIFA foundation. Why did you start it and what are its objectives? How many kids are benefiting from your work and have you spotted any future prospects that you think are exceptional? Is there a set age group that you focus on?
Nirvan: “PIFA Foundation for the benefit of sports” was established in 2007 with the intention of helping the talented albeit less privileged children to develop as football players and keep them off the streets. The foundation aims to collect fund to sponsor children and youngsters in order to :
Develop football players amongst underprivileged childrenProvide them appropriate gear (kit, shoes, shin pads)Teach them a life skill (coaching administration, marketing) and make them independentProvide Guidance & counsellingParticipate in tournaments in other citiesEmpower them to stand up against abuseAn opportunity to be selected for the state and get meaningful employmentAn opportunity to earn a good salary by being selected by an I league teamThe foundation is working with over 20 children aged 10-16 years from Colaba fishing village as well as 15 children from Bhayander thanks to donations from Indian Football fans. We have spotted a dozen kids of which 2 have gone on to play for India U16. The children from Bhayander played for our Lady of Nazereth School came up to the quarter-finals of the Arsenal Jago Re Soccer Tournament.
All the PIFA Colaba teams have benefited from this program. Donations of any amount are welcome and the donor can avail of tax (Section 80G) benefits.
Harmit : Please tell us about Colaba Youngstar FC ?
Nirvan: In 2006, we were looking to adopt a community based team. Colaba Youngstar FC approached us for sponsorship. We helped them on condition that we would be partners and not only support them financially through PIFA Foundation for the benefit of sports but also implement the PIFA coaching program and code of conduct.
We now have 4 teams playing in the MDFA league under the following names.
PIFA Colaba FC – Elite DivisionPIFA Colaba U19 – First DivisionPIFA Colaba U15 – Fourth Division (now promoted to 3rd)PIFA Colaba Women – Women’s Division
Harmit : How does a PIFA Colaba team end up playing in the Elite Division, you guys must be doing something exceptional, that the others are not? Most of the players in your Elite team are below 19. Your U19 team also plays in the first division. What is that you are doing different?
Nirvan: Upon forming PIFA Colaba FC, I completed my UEFA B coaching license from UK. This helped in getting a structured training program for the team both technical and tactical aspects. Being a young squad the players reacted positively and showed improvement at every training session. An integral part of our training is team building. We use the same tactical training in the U13 academy program.
Harmit : Are all the players in your U19 team a product of your coaching? How do you fund the team as I suspect there is probably no monetary incentive that WIFA (Western Indian Football Association) provides to teams in the Elite or any other Division?
Nirvan: Well 75% of them are from the academy. The balance 25% are selected through open trials some of them come from out of Mumbai. The team is funded through the PIFA academy and from the funds generated from the camps that we organize in and out of India. We are looking for sponsors to help us take this team into the AIFF I league.
Harmit : If you think the Cooperage was a more modern stadium with things like a roof, flood lights, washrooms etc. would more people go to local games and commercial football be more successful in Mumbai? What kind of things do you would make people turn out to see live soccer in Mumbai?
Nirvan: It is what I dream for and it will surely happen. Yes definitely, infrastructure plays an important role in both the viewership as well as the quality of the game.
I would like to see the local radio stations and TV channels talk about the game. The press should cover more school & club matches, even if they have to mention the score and the goal scorer it would suffice. It is what children and young players dream to see their names in the paper. I would go also like to see a boys & girls league for youth football academies.
Harmit: Many thanks for sparing time your time to talk to us.