Football-loving brothers Saahil and Sanil Desai decided to set up FutureStars Football Academy (FSFA), a grassroots football academy in Mumbai in 2012. Their motivation behind opening the academy was to take their passion for football to the next level, and give young children a chance to be active while falling in love with the beautiful game. The brothers started playing football at a young age, and today they hope to pass on this love to all the children who come to the Academy. GFI had a chance to interview Co-Founder and Director Saahil Desai. Here’s what he had to say.
“There really is no ideal age [to start playing football]. The younger and earlier, the better. We are sometimes under the notion that technical or any basic football development needs to happen only after a certain age but even a 3 or 4-year-old can start playing with a football and start learning. I would mention though that kids under 6 need top coaches. It’s an art in itself.” – Saahil Desai, Co-Founder and Director, FutureStars Football Academy
The aim behind setting up the Academy was to give children easier access to the sport, and get as many children as possible to start playing football from a young age. Saahil feels the sport has numerous benefits for kids – teaching them the life skills of leadership, hard work, dedication, and communication. Some of the other advantages of playing football include improved fitness, endurance and agility while children learn how to work together and communicate, solving problems as a team. He also maintains that the Academy was, is, and always will be dedicated to the development of grassroots football and they hope to give children a chance to enjoy and play the game, the way he and his brother did in their youth. FSFA is also working towards training youth, and helping them look at football as a viable career option.
The FSFA Advantage
Although they are among the many football academies in Mumbai, Saahil has a few thoughts on what makes FSFA stand out. The Academy focuses solely on grassroots football, and on training children between the ages of 5 and 14. They also pay a lot of attention to the education and growth of their coaches, and interact with the parents regularly. Most importantly, Saahil says they have a clear plan on how children can grow in the Academy. Further, there is a healthy focus on providing the children with competitive match experience through tournaments and leagues.
“Personally, I feel competition is very important, even for the younger age groups but it needs to be monitored and explained, if you will, to kids in the right manner. It sometimes ends up becoming over important and unhealthy for kids. With the right coaches and educated parents, competitive games and leagues within centres and with teams outside are a superb way for kids to translate all their coaching and learning into a competitive environment, which is after all what they will be ultimately doing with a career in football.” – Saahil Desai, Co-Founder and Director, FutureStars Football Academy
Football – The Sport of the Future
A majority of Indians live and breathe cricket, while football has a smaller, but equally passionate following in the country, and when asked about the sport’s future in India, Saahil thinks things are surely looking up! He believes that the marketing of the global game has led to unrivaled TV coverage of international leagues, with the World Cup being the biggest spectacle in world sport. Numerous children have been influenced by the English Premier League, and with football being a simple game of just 90 minutes, children are really enjoying it. The Indian Super League (ISL) has also given football greater visibility in the country as the sport gradually moves towards becoming India’s most popular game.
Girls & Football
Football in India sees as much participation from boys as it does from girls, and FSFA encourages both boys and girls, letting them train together until the age of 9 or 10. Unfortunately, girls don’t seem to look at football as a long-term activity, or as a viable career option. Saahil feels that by educating parents a little, they can understand the importance of co-ed training, and the importance of the sport in their child’s life. There are also a number of girls’ grassroots football programs and leagues that have started recently. These small steps are sure to go a long way in promoting football in the long run among both girls and boys. An interesting fact to remember here is that the men’s team has ranked between 150 and 175 in the last 5 years according to the FIFA rankings, while the girl’s team has jumped ranks from 100 to 56.
The Making of a Footballer
While looking for aspiring footballers, Saahil says those children who have a willingness to learn, do something great, and try harder the next day are the ones that really do well. They should know that it takes hard work and dedication to improve. He also thinks it is important to have children who have a fun-loving and positive attitude, because their qualities are infectious, and can uplift the entire session. He also expressed his feelings on parents of the children they coach. He says that they have come a long way from demanding top grades and degrees. Children today are making their own decisions and life choices, and are succeeding. Parents no longer complain of football or sport being a hindrance to their child’s education, and FSFA is lucky to have great parents who are patient and really let their kids get involved in the game.
“Clichéd as it is, football is life. I’ve been involved in football since I was 5. I studied Sports Management and did my coaching licenses and then took FutureStars full-time in an effort to help provide kids with a chance to first, just be introduced and play the game and over time, enjoy it, learn it, improve and develop and see it as a viable career option. Football means everything to me, and I hope I can make it mean everything to kids that come and train with us.” – Saahil Desai, Co-Founder and Director, FutureStars Football Academy
FSFA’s long-term goal is to establish themselves as a premier grassroots academy and develop strong squads in the U-10, U-12 and U-14 age groups. The idea is to build a team of coaches who are strong, passionate, experienced, and well educated. Further, the academy plans to provide coach education solutions and build a culture of football from a development point of view for young kids, coaches, parents, and administrators. FSFA has done great work so far, and we can’t wait to see what Saahil and Sanil have in store for the future of the Academy!
To get in touch with FSFA, write to them on firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com or call +91 9833916618.