Mumbai City FC, who were awarded the Best Grassroots Programme by the Reliance Foundation earlier in May this year, have built on their initial success by announcing the launch of a new Grassroots Football League in the city. The ISL club has joined hands with the Navi Mumbai Area Schools Association (NMASA) to set up a much-needed youth league for children in the Under-8, Under-10, Under-12 and Under-14 age groups. The Mumbai City FC-NMASA Grassroots Football League will be held at the Fr Agnel Sports Complex in Vashi and will provide boys and girls from more than 150 schools in the Navi Mumbai area with competitive matches in a well-regulated and safe environment.
One of the most important features of the league is that the children will get a chance to play in FIFA-recommended, age-specific formats with U8s playing 5 v 5, U10s playing 7 v7 and so on. These small-sided games will offer children more touches of the ball, greater goal-scoring opportunities and, most importantly, give children a match framework that is best suited to their physical capabilities. Among the biggest criticisms of grassroots football in other parts of India is that children who barely have the strength to pass a ball 5 yards are made to play 11 v 11 inter-school tournaments on full-size pitches.
Mumbai City’s CEO, Indranil Das Blah said:
“At Mumbai City FC we take our football very seriously. We firmly believe this high level of competition is a stepping stone to bring the best out of the city’s youngsters. With an eye on the future, as we build the franchise at one level, we need to ensure that there is a strong feeder pipeline in place to take the legacy of Mumbai City FC forward.”
Our hope is that well-thought out leagues like this will help India produce increasingly technical footballers who can be groomed as they move up the age groups. While Delhi Dynamos‘ Roberto Carlos, Pune City‘s Adrian Mutu, Chennaiyin FC‘s Elano and Northeast United‘s Simao have been in the spotlight recently, it is heartening to see ISL clubs begin to wield their significant influence for the betterment of football in India.