One of the biggest problems plaguing Indian football is the lack of a constantly flowing talent pool that can support the entire ecosystem of the sport. The great players are few and far between, and there is a big disconnect between the talent on the streets and the talent on the football pitch. Addressing this issue could go a long way in solving the talent pool problems for Indian football.
Coca-Cola on their part have been actively involved in the grassroots development of youngsters looking to make it to the top of Indian football. Understanding the need for guiding the footballing talent that India has to offer, Coca-Cola partnered with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in 2009, becoming the official sponsors of the Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy (MIHT). With this association, Coca-Cola committed themselves to supporting the National Under-16 Football Championship for a period of three years.
The tournament turned into a runaway success, with more than 2,000 schools and 40,000 players across 76 cities and 27 states participating in 2011 – the biggest pan-India competition of its nature.
The success of the initial program convinced the AIFF to renew its partnership deal with Coca-Cola for another six years, leading up to 2017 when the U-17 World Cup is scheduled to be held in India. Under the new agreement, the championship would now be known as “The Coca-Cola Cup”, and the aim of the project is to create the next generation of top Indian footballers.
Through their flagship tournament, Coca-Cola intend to complement the AIFF’s efforts to find and nurture the best talent that the country has to offer and to funnel it into the U-17 team for the World Cup in 2017. This grassroots development program undertaken by Coca-Cola is a fantastic means of finding the right talent and nurturing it to its potential.
In the cut-throat world of football, where only one out of every 1,000 youngsters makes it to the top, every advantage counts. And the biggest advantage that a budding footballer can have is the development of his skills in his formative years i.e. the ages 12 to 16. Constant training under the right coaches, feedback on areas of improvement and know-how to tackle the unknown - these are the things that grassroots development provides to anyone willing to make a career out of the sport they love.
Not only does grassroots development help teenagers make their dreams come true, it is also a fantastic way of creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The benefits of football training every week can be felt for years to come, as the body and mind become tuned to exercise and hard work. Sports training from an early age helps youngsters achieve focus and concentration, all the while improving their physical attributes as well.
Coca-Cola’s commitment to Indian football and its importance in creating the talent pool of tomorrow can be felt keenly. Last year, 40 players from the Coca-Cola Cup were chosen for training at the AIFF-FIFA academies, which is the stepping stone for any young player to hone his skills.
With participation in this year’s Coca-Cola Cup again expected to cross 40,000 players from more than 2,500 schools, it is very much possible that the next U-17 Indian football team will comprise mainly of players who shone in the tournament. It is for this reason that the Coca-Cola Cup is vital; it is on track to creating the next generation of Indian football superstars.