In the summer of 2011, the Pune FC Academy was started, and although the club no longer has a first team, they continue to focus on developing grassroots football in India. With the simple mantra of ‘Learn to Play the Pune FC Way’, the Academy has worked hard over the last 4 years, to carefully mould aspiring footballers in their city. The club recently topped the Maharashtra Zone in the U18 I-League and the U15 Youth League to qualify for the National Round to be held later this year.
As part of their youth development, Pune FC started off 2016 on a great note, by conducting a first of its kind intra-Soccer School Tournament at their training pitches in Mamurdi on the first weekend of the year. The aim of the tournament, was to bring together all the children from various Pune FC Soccer School centres across the city.
Even though it was in the middle of school vacations, the intra-soccer school tournament saw nearly 100 kids representing 16 teams in 3 age groups – Under 8, Under 10, and Under 13 – coming in from centres spread far and wide across Pune to compete. Every tournament comes with competition, but the idea of the tournament wasn’t just to bring out the kids’ competitive sides. It was to give the kids opportunities to make new friends, gel with new teammates, and implement all the lessons and skills they had picked up while training to play ‘The Pune FC Way’.
The coaches started the tournament by explaining the basic rules, before reminding the eager youngsters to play the game in the right spirit. Cheering parents on the side-lines only added to the fun-filled and action packed atmosphere of. Each team had only 5 players, and with no substitutes, which meant all the children got to play full matches while getting maximum touches of the ball. The kids had a good time, giving games everything they had, while trying to remember and implement everything they had learned during their regular football coaching classes.
To add a little bit of fun and a touch of coaching to the weekend proceedings, the two finalists in the U8 category went head-to-head in a Best of Five series. Three of the five were football matches, while the other two games were fun and focused more on teamwork. The weekend came to an end all too soon, with the winners and runners up being awarded medals. Apart from simply rewarding those who did well, the idea behind giving away medals, was to remind all the youngsters to always keep putting their best foot forward, and work hard towards achieving their dream of playing the game at the highest level.
What a great way to kick-start 2016, and get the kids ready for another term of school. Well done Pune FC – the work you do for grassroots football in India is really something we can all be proud of!
To view more photos of the tournament, visit the Pune FC Facebook page.