The All India Football Federation (AIFF) U-17 team won the Subroto Cup earlier this month, and were awarded the trophy by none other than football legend, Pelé. Although AIFF had a humble beginning in 1937, the organisation has come a very long way since then. The AIFF Technical Director is former Australian football player, Scott O’Donell, and the Federation has plans to spread their wings further, and really touch the lives of youth through their Academies and training programmes. While the win is surely a feather in their cap, AIFF maintains that youth development is not at all about winning.
“It is always nice to win but it should not be the priority in Youth Development. I said to the boys before the game, that if they play the way we know they can play, then the result will take care of itself. Winning the Subroto Cup was very pleasing for Floyd and the boys, but for me the experience of playing in a competition and playing the final in front of such a big crowd and particularly in front of Pele, was extremely beneficial for the boys.” – Scott O’Donell, Technical Director, AIFF
The AIFF has already identified a few problem areas, and have implemented a National Youth Development Plan (NYDP), hoping to set up football school centres in every state in India to coach children between the ages of 6 and 12 who are keen on playing football. Unfortunately, getting the right infrastructure in place is bound to take a while. They faced similar roadblocks while trying to set up their academies in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Goa.
“We have had issues with venues for our Academies because we do not have our own National Training Centre. As a result we have had to search for suitable venues across the Country. The lack of suitable infrastructure is a big problem but I am hoping with the hosting of the FIFA U17 World Cup, at least one legacy will be the improvement in playing and training facilities.” – Scott O’Donell, Technical Director, AIFF
The Technical Director of the Federation has also spoken about the lack of competitive football being a major problem for their academy players. While training and friendly matches are all part of the learning experience, he feels that competitive leagues will give youth a better idea of how competitive football is played, and will help in all-round development of the player. Despite all the roadblocks in their path, the AIFF is doing a lot more than most other Asian countries to promote football, not only at an elite level, but at a grassroots level as well. They have a plan in place, and are working incredibly hard to give youth a chance to play football and develop their skills. We look forward to seeing these great ideas and plans implemented effectively on the ground so that Indian football can reap the benefits!