With inputs provided by Maxon Sequeira
Over the last few months, we’ve had the opportunity to track the good work that Rural Development Trust (RDT) has been doing for football in Anantapur and neighbouring areas in Andhra Pradesh. Under the watchful eyes of Head Coach, Miquel Llado, the boys from Anantapur have been putting in the hard yards in training and it is nice to see that their efforts are gradually bearing fruit.
As testament to their progress, Anantapur Sports Academy’s (ASA) senior-most player, S Bhaskar Reddy, is already playing in the 2nd Division I-League club representing Fateh Hyderabad AFC. Not only that, several of the boys from Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA) have been selected to play for Fateh Hyderabad AFC’s youth teams in the U18 I-League and U15 Youth League. To help the boys prepare well for the leagues, Anantapur Sports Village (ASV) Football Academy hosted an exchange camp with two teams – Mahogany FC from Chennai and Ozone FC from Bengaluru earlier in December.
Both teams brought in 24-member squads who trained along with ASV Football boys in the mornings and played practice matches in the evenings. Mahogany FC reached the camp on 5th December while Ozone FC joined them on 8th December. During the camp, the three teams played games in a league format to help the boys get some solid, competitive match experience. RDT went the extra mile and extended their hospitality to Mahogany FC while Chennai was struck by the terrible floods, which enabled the Chennai team to stay on longer until things settled down back home.
The camp helped the ASV team to experiment with different playing formations while utilising existing strategies and developing new ones, which could help the team cope better against bigger and stronger opponents during the upcoming U18 and U15 seasons. In addition, it gave coaches and players the opportunity reflect on and assess the technical and tactical aspects of their game while also testing their strengths and weaknesses at set pieces.
Apart from the training and tactics, the teams came together for a few video sessions at the ASV auditorium. Coaches willingly exchanged their ideas and knowledge despite the fact that their teams may be pitted against each other during the upcoming U15 Youth League season in January 2016.
Speaking about the ongoing preparations, ASA Head Coach, Miquel Llado, was honest about keeping expectations realistic and said:
“The younger boys are not yet well prepared to meet the competition as they lack the playing experience against such highly competitive and well-drilled teams. This exchange camp will give the boys the opportunity to play with these teams and understand the kind of game they need to bring out when they step out onto the field.”
After this camp, the road ahead for the selected U15 ASV Academy boys is to prepare for the U15 Youth League that is scheduled to be held in January 2016. Meanwhile, the selected ASV Academy U18 boys have been in Jalandhar since the 10th December to participate in the ‘Rest of India’ Group E of the U18 I-League representing Fateh Hyderabad AFC. They will be facing off against Lone Star Kashmir FC, Minerva Academy FC and Bengaluru FC between 14th and 24th December, 2015.
Having started off as a grassroots program, it is very encouraging to see that talented ASA players have clear development pathways within the system. Credit also needs to be given to Fateh Hyderabad AFC for providing the boys with an excellent platform to showcase their talent. Above all, ASA’s success serves as an inspiration to other grassroots movements across India. Because merit knows no boundaries.