In a bid to make football accessible to every young footballer in the state, Bhubaneswar-based ISL club Odisha FC, has opted for the cyber route, courtesy of its unique Digital Grassroots Program.
COVID-19 has negatively impacted various businesses. The sports industry has not been immune to its unwanted spread. This deadly pandemic has left the sports industry at a standstill.
With absolutely minimal physical activity allowed, and a majority of the tournaments canceled, teams and leagues have run into huge losses. In an effort to combat such a situation, everyone has tried to go digital with various new initiatives and programs directed towards their target group.
Odisha FC’s unique grassroots program is aimed at young footballers of the state who will work on improving their football skills and learn about the fundamentals of the sport from the Youth Coaches of Odisha FC - Sandeep Alhan and Kirti Kashyap over a period of eight weeks.
With no access to baby leagues or grassroots tournaments, Odisha FC devised this plan to make proper use of the lockdown to benefit the young players and in the process, help the club in increasing their fan base.
The project has been devised under the leadership of CEO Rohan Sharma, Club President Raj Athwal and Head of Football Operations Abhik Chatterjee.
In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Grassroots Manager of Odisha FC, Suvam Das said:
“The Odisha FC Digital Grassroots Academy is an initiative through which we are trying to reach out to more and more kids in Odisha and get them involved in our Grassroots programs. As many of our planned programs didn't kick-off because of the ongoing pandemic, we decided to start this to make sure more children get a basic understanding of the game."
What do we know about the coaches?
Odisha FC's Under-18 Coach Sandeep Alhan and Under-13 Coach Kirti Kashyap are involved in this program and will be imparting knowledge to the kids through webinars. Alhan is an AFC 'B' Diploma holder while Kashyap is an AFC 'C' License holder.
How would a digital program benefit young footballers from the state and Odisha FC?
Grassroots Manager Suvam Das went on to explain how the program will help budding footballers in Odisha. He said:
“Through this campaign, we want to reach out to those kids who have been deprived of developing their footballing skills because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The webinar will include modules about physical fitness, nutrition and gradually move towards developing basic skills revolving around football like agility, flexibility, endurance, passing, and dribbling to name a few."
Grassroots tournaments and youth leagues lack the clarity needed to be executed efficiently in this pandemic-warped situation. Hence, going the digital way seems to be the best option at the moment for Odisha FC and every other sports team.
"Social media has become a very powerful tool nowadays and because of the pandemic, everything has gone digital. There is nothing that we can’t do on social media. We at Odisha FC are focussed on community development and fan engagement and that’s one of our philosophies," says Ayan Chatterjee, Head of Digital at Odisha FC, while talking to Sportskeeda.
When asked about the end result of this program, Grassroots Manager Suvam Das said:
“To ensure this isn't just another classroom program, we have integrated Odisha FC players to put forth challenges related to the sessions to engage the participants. Those players who will impress the coaches with their skills and performance will be called up for camps with the youth teams which will be a selection trial in itself.”
Why the program is a smart move by Odisha FC
Through this program, the club is going to add to their list of followers on social media while at the same time developing budding players who can represent Odisha FC one day.
"We did not have this in mind that because of this program we will get a lot of followers. This program is purely for the development of the sport in Odisha and youth development. It is definitely going to boost our social media. Young kids can interact with the club directly on social media and that is a part of the entire experience that we are offering. We are trying to reach more and more people across the state through this initiative," mentions Ayan.
The first batch of the program is already underway, receiving 250 responses in just two days.