Arriving at Anantapur Sports Village (ASV) in Andhra Pradesh as an intern, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I’d only heard of it a couple months back and still didn’t know much about the place. I had my doubts, but less than a day after getting here I found myself in a state of absolute bewilderment.
Three hours from Bangalore and seven from Hyderabad, Anantapur is not the place you expect to find facilities of this class or level. In fact, after my first day here I’d think it would be hard to find something similar in the aforementioned Cities.
The area surrounding the campus is almost desert-like, a drought prone area which attracts hardly any rainfall. Yet, the cricket and football pitches are maintained to emerald green perfection.
The tennis and hockey courts that surround them are top notch as well and really embody the passion and commitment of the non-profit organization Rural Development Trust (RDT) and it’s several partners towards development and encouraging the rural youth to take up sports and all the positives it brings with it.
Operating at the apex of other grassroots programs and development centres it manages, the ASV is focused on helping motivated and purposeful athletes realize their sporting potentials. The fact that they get the opportunity to do that at an institution like this is a magnificent example to the rest of India.
Our sporting or scouting nets tend to be very limited and more often than not search for talent only from cities where children have had a lot more opportunities in terms of Sport. Initiatives like ASV help expand that narrow scouting range and not only give children the opportunities to compete or play at a much more elite level, but the training for it as well.
My first day here also marked the beginning of an annual football camp held by Spanish club C.F Santvicenti for over 120 boys and girls here at the ASV. As an avid football fan myself, I was excited to see how these sessions would go. For the second time in a day, I was quite stunned.
The positive energy (amongst both the girls and boys teams) was amazing. Greeted by “Hola”’s and the sounds of “Ole Ole” as the coaches celebrated a goal with the kids gave the place an amazing, coherent and genuinely upbeat vibe. Naturally, there is a bit of a language barrier but that doesn’t stop anybody from learning or enjoying themselves. The atmosphere created by both the children and Coaches was truly inspiring.
I witnessed yesterday that even though Cricket dominates Sport in India, Football is starting to spread across every inch of the country. Globally, European football is on a massive rise in terms of popularity. I mean, you have to get pretty far out finding people who have never heard of Messi nowadays. That, along with institutions like ASV is where it all starts.
The more people play, the better they get. It’s a great start and if more people begin to take notice and guide this rise of the beautiful game in the right direction, the sky is the limit. These sort of camps can only be good for Indian football and hopefully we can see some real progress in the level of Football here in India. We certainly have the athletes for it.