'Mission Eleven Million' and its role to change the Football Landscape of India with regard to development of football in India
Football is not new to us. It probably courses through the veins of a majority of the Eastern, North Eastern and Southern belts of our country.
Also, having been an essential part of India’s sporting culture for about 100 years, the popularity of the beautiful game has proliferated into the 21st century through a vicarious but healthy fan base across the nation for several international leagues and teams. A clear proof of leading sport channels catering and altering their programming to service international game screenings, bringing down elite teams and athletes as well as setting up academies by corporates.
The relevance and importance of sport in a developing country like us is humungus. An important fact to note is that about 22% of India’s population is below the poverty line and children from this segment don’t have access to some of the basic necessities for growth and survival. Using sport and especially, an inclusive one, like football as catalyst to bridge this gap can is the calling of the hour.
A testament of what sport can do to empower the lesser endowed is through world class players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo who have come from such backgrounds where they, as children, did not have the privileges that they enjoy today.
Football was the sport that helped them overcome their hardships and paved the way for them to become the legends that they are today. And the spirit of creating heroes within you is something that is the need of the hour today for not just Urban but rural psyches also.
The answer to the above was given to the nation on the 6th December 2013 when India was officially declared as the host nation for the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
This announcement was a watershed moment in the history of development of football in our country. India had arrived finally at the international football scene and would be rubbing shoulders with the big players of the world. By hosting the most illustrious tournament for football at an international level, India has a big shoes to fill in, especially at nurturing talent at the grassroots.
As the opening game dawns closer, the Government of India has initiated multiple campaigns to bring the sport to every nook and corner of the country; one of them being the Mission XI Million program (MXIM).
A collaboration between the Government of India and the All India Football Federation (AIFF), Mission XI Million envisions to introduce the world's most popular sport to 11 million students, parents, coaches, and teachers through workshops, seminars, contact programs as well as competitions before the World Cup. This goal will be achieved by taking the game to 12,000 schools in 37 cities, to encourage and incentivize teachers to get children to play the sport on a regular basis.
Since the game can be played in different formats, MXIM will help stimulate the development of the small sided formats (4 vs 4, 5 vs 5) in schools which would help students gain confidence, learn how to play the game and absorb its core values. The words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi summarize an opportunity of this magnitude. He has termed this as a breakthrough in the revolution of sport in our country and expects the whole year to be an atmosphere of football in schools and colleges. Within a span of few months, this program has already touched 1 million children across the country.
Along with the federation and the government, several corporates have heavily invested in the development of talent. Corporates have supported this cause and paved way for an opportunity by introducing and letting thousands of children in the country experience the sport.
India is a land of opportunities and the potential that our billion plus population is immense. When revolutions like MXIM kick in at the core of the country, wheels of change begin to churn fortunes. And once this wheel starts spinning it, there’s no stopping it.
(The author is Country Head – Commercial Banking and in-charge of Sports Vertical, IndusInd Bank)