We are here to build bridges between Indian football and Europe – Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools


Bhaichung Bhutia Football School (BBFS) is an exciting initiative by India’s longest serving football captain Bhaichung Bhutia, Kishore Taid and Anurag Khilnani (both IIT D and IIM A alumnus) and has its academies in Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Greater Noida, Chandigarh and Mumbai. With a view to develop football in the right way in India with high quality coaching and training infrastructure, BBFS has set out to produce footballers, not only capable of playing for India, but also capable of competing at the biggest European clubs.

Sportskeeda decided to have a chat with Mr. Kishore Taid, Director of BBFS, on the recent launch of their new academies, their trip to Portugal and their plans for the future. This is what he had to say –

Let us start off with a brief introduction about what Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools is all about.

Kishore – Basically, when we started out with BBFS, the idea was to bring in world class football coaching to the kids in India because it is something that we clearly miss in our country and even Bhaichung acknowledged this. The overall vision is not just to provide training or run a centre, but the objective is to have a long lasting impact on youth development in Indian football. If you compare the way Indian footballers grow up learning the game to that of Europe, you will see we are miles behind them. So the idea is to change the way people perceive youth development in India. Obviously it’s a very ambitious thing to say but we are working towards it.

So it starts with bringing in the right methodology and training kids in the right way. But we also try to make policy level changes that can have a much more widespread impact on Indian football. We work closely with the All India Football Federation (AIFF). For example, Anurag Khilnani and myself, under Rob Baan’s (Technical Director of AIFF) guidance, co – wrote the AIFF master plan. It covers various aspects related to Indian football and the initiatives the federation wants to take in the next 10 years. It has specifically mentioned initiatives related to youth development like coaches’ training, referee training, infrastructure development etc. This was the vision that Rob had and we have helped him document it. That’s more like a policy level work by BBFS. At the same time, we are trying to build bridges between India and Europe whereby we get the technical knowhow from abroad and we only employ the best practices in India.

So that’s the overall vision of BBFS, it is not just to run training centres but change the way youth development takes place in India

That’s a great initiative. So you have set up new academies recently in Chandigarh and Noida. Can you tell us something about them?

One of our objectives is to run good quality training centres which would benefit children from the entire neighbourhood within a 5-10 km radius. So that is the reason why we have opened centres in NCR subcities like Gurgaon, Noida and Greater Noida. It is difficult for children in Delhi to go and play in Gurgaon and viceversa. And hence we have centres in different subcities because if you look at the Indian education system, children have to be at their school till 3.30 or 4 pm. So it becomes very difficult for them to play regularly. That’s why we have centres in different neighbourhoods

Bhaichung Bhutia

So are you looking to consolidate and set up a base in particular cities or will you look to expand and reach out to as many cities as possible?

The idea is to get into as many cities as possible because we feel that the methodology that we are following needs to be spread out and everyone need to know about it. So we want to reach out to maximum number of coaches and kids. Ideally, we want to have as many centres as possible but that’s part of our future plans.

What are your views on youth development in India and the need to catch talent at a young age? Because we know that is somewhere India is lagging behind a lot. So is that a part of what BBFS is trying to do?

Yes, as you mentioned, identifying talent is a very important thing and it needs to happen at a very young age. In Europe too, it happens at a very young age, say around 4-5 years. So BBFS caters to children from an age of 5 years onwards until they can become eligible to play for clubs. So that is the target segment that BBFS looks at. Right now, when you talk about 5 or 6 year old boys, we do have our U-8 team and U-10 team. So we are focusing on those age groups quite a bit. We feel that they have the maximum potential going forward. Hence it is very essential to identify them at a young age and give them proper training.

Your team had participated in the Copa Foot 21 tournament in Portugal last year. How was the experience there and how will it benefit the children?

Actually it is still a doubt in the minds of people whether India really has the talent in football and whether it can match its counterparts in Europe. So in this tournament, we got a chance to see and compare some of our talented academy players with European kids of the same age. We had our U-10s and U-13s participating in the tournament.

It was a very good learning experience from our perspective. We played against teams like Sporting Lisbon, Benfica, FC Porto etc. Our major learning was that the Indian kids do have talent. What they do not have is the access to the right training and a competitive environment. Because a competitive environment is very crucial in the development of a child, not just in football but in any field. Our U-10s played 7 games out of which we lost 6 and we drew 1. But there were a couple of positives that were encouraging of which one was that out of the 7 matches, we scored in 6 of those. And we had 2-3 players who played very well and the team also played good counter attacking football.

Another point to be noted is that our average age was less than that of our competitors. It was an U-10 group but our team had boys aged 7-8 years as well. So our talent level is definitely comparable to those in Europe. But as the boys grow up, they lose out on the right training and the right competitive environment. That is the gap that we want to bridge with BBFS.

You have Jose Tavares, who has coaching experience with Fulham and Brentford, in your coaching team. So what role do you think foreign coaches will have on Indian football as compared to the Indian coaches who will have a better connect with Indian children?

When you talk about foreign coaches and Indian coaches, you have to consider two things. One is the connect part and the other is the knowledge part. We definitely have some very good coaches in India but when you talk about Indian football as a whole, then we have a lot to learn from the west, whether it is in the form of technical knowledge, the know-how or the technology and the scientific aspect of football which the people in Europe are using for football development. Our philosophy strongly believes that if we have a weakness, we have to identify it and we have to work on those weaknesses. Unless we accept it, we cannot learn. We have visited many academies of top clubs in Europe and have interacted with the best coaches to understand how they train. And on the basis of those experiences, we feel we definitely have a lot to learn. There is nothing to be ashamed of, as the more we learn, the better we will become.

There are factors which work in favour of Indian coaches rather than foreign coaches as foreign coaches have to deal with the cultural differences and have to adapt to life in India. But football is a universal language and when it comes to connecting with players, it cannot be stopped by any nationality or language or any political barriers. Because so far, five different foreign coaches have come and worked with us in the past two years and we have seen all of them having an amazing connect with the kids.

So having a connect with the kids is not a problem but as far as technical knowhow is concerned, we do have a lot to learn from foreign coaches.

BBFS Coaches Training Workshop for NGOs

BBFS Coaches Training Workshop for NGOs

What do you think sets BBFS apart from other football academies in India?

At BBFS, we focus a lot on the human capital. Our main strength is that every person involved with BBFS is very passionate about football and they have made lot of sacrifices. Many of them have left their jobs to work with us. So everyone is putting their heart and soul into this and that is the main reason why BBFS has been successful when other academies of a similar model are struggling in India.

Of late, many European clubs such as Manchester United, Barcelona, Arsenal etc have been setting up their academies in India. So do you think it is just a marketing initiative so as to exploit the massive fan base in India or will they really benefit Indian football?

I think, in a way, it is good that a lot of these big names are coming to India and it also shows the immense potential that India has which we need to tap. What I definitely feel is that if these big names in world football can leave behind some of their technical knowledge, expertise, the processes, the systems that they use in their countries, then Indian football definitely stands to benefit a lot. So we should look at what these academies are bringing to India from the West and how it percolates down to the Indian population and Indian youth.

Visit by FIFA Technical Director of Development, September 2011

Visit by FIFA Technical Director of Development, September 2011

We have one last question for you today. What is in store for BBFS in the future and what are your plans in the next few years?

Opening more centres is definitely a part of the agenda as I said earlier, since we want to reach out to as many kids as possible. But at the same time, we would also want to bring in more technical expertise from abroad for which we are striving to create partnerships with foreign clubs. And we also want to continue working with the AIFF to make a more widespread impact on Indian football. Currently we are working on developing a technical curriculum for the coaches in India.

So we have a three pronged approach for the next couple of years – open more centres and reach out to as many kids as possible so as to impart the right training and methodology, make policy level impact so that Indian football benefits as a whole and finally, bring in more technical knowhow from the West.

Thanks a lot for your time. We hope BBFS is successful in achieving all its goals and has an ever lasting impact on Indian football!

Thanks a lot and it was really nice of you to come down and talk about our initiative. What we have definitely seen is that there are a lot of people who are passionate about the game and want the game to develop, like yourself. So, we definitely believe that in the next 3-5 years, there will be lot of positive changes in the game in India.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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