The impact of Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga broadcasts on cable television combined with the growing influence of the two-year-old Indian Super League have been instrumental in bringing football into India’s consciousness. Today, everybody from school children to office-going senior executives are enjoying a kickabout at the numerous 5-a-side football turfs popping up all over the country. Interestingly, football has captured the imagination of people in regions where it has traditionally played second fiddle to cricket.
In this context, it is encouraging to see greater numbers of grassroots programs taking off in cities like Chennai, home of defending ISL champs, Chennaiyin FC. The latest boost to grassroots football in Chennai has come from the launch of Schools Premier League – Season 2, which has been graciously sponsored by Radiance Developers. Started in 2014, this year’s league features 16 school teams split into two groups. All schools in a group will play each other once and the top two teams from each group go on to qualify for the semi-finals.
The ISL Advantage
As partners for the league, Chennaiyin FC will provide match kits for all participants. However, their key role will be in scouting top performing players and providing them opportunities to hone their skills at the Chennaiyin FC Centre for Excellence. The club’s investment in grassroots has been highlighted by the recent recruitment of former AIFF Elite Academy Head Coach and Tamilnadu-born Syed Sabir Pasha as Technical Director, Grassroots Development who will lead the scouting initiative.
Speaking on the occasion of the launch, Varun Tripuraneni, COO, Chennaiyin FC and Founder of Schools Premier League said:
“The league was a massive hit in Season 1 and schools were constantly behind us to organise the second edition of the league. We are now happy to return with Chennaiyin FC as the partners.”
“The Radiance Sports Schools Premier League 2016, in partnership with Chennaiyin FC, is an opportunity to provide these hopeful youngsters a platform to showcase and refine their football talents. The response from the schools has been extremely positive from the 1st season and it was extremely tough shortlisting the 16 school teams this season. I would like to thank Radiance Sports for buying into our vision and supporting us in what will be a first-of-its-kind league in the country.”
Chennaiyin FC, Technical Director, Grassroots Development, Syed Sabir Pasha said:
“We, at Chennaiyin FC, are always looking to develop the best talent of the state and partnering with this league gives us an opportunity to see more talented young footballers in action. I encourage all the school kids, coaches, teachers and parents to give their very best in this tournament.”
Varun Manian, Managing Director, Radiance Developers, also spoke at the launch saying:
“We are very proud to associate with Schools Premier League as principal sponsor. We were associated with this initiative in the first season as well and we believe that this initiative will go a long way in developing the young talent in the country. We wish all the participating teams the best of luck!”
Match Analysis Comes to Grassroots
This year’s Schools Premier League will now provide in-depth match analysis powered by the league’s strategic partnership with Sports Mechanics, a leader in providing sports analytics, consulting and technology services. This tie-up will provide the Schools Premier League the opportunity to leverage the latest technological advances, maximise fan engagement, and utilise analytics to transform the experience for fans and players alike.
Commenting on the tie-up, CKM Dhananjai, Vice President, SportsMechanics said:
“We are looking forward to create a unique digital platform and think about how we can discover and execute differential and engaging experiences for fans in a unique tournament like this.”
Varun Tripuraneni, COO, Chennaiyin FC, added:
“Our partnership with SportsMechanics will focus on fan engagement across various digital mediums. An important part of developing players is ensuring they are prepared in the best possible way. The players can watch highlights of the goals scored, look at the other important statistics like shots on target, minutes played and also analyse the opposition by knowing their performance in previous games which will all be available on the website.”
#PoduMachiGoalu for Grassroots in Chennai!
So to sum up, yes, it’s fantastic to have analytics making things interesting for players, parents and coaches, but, in our opinion, the greatest benefit will come from the young footballers getting competitive match experience while the best talents are picked up by ISL 2015 Champions, Chennaiyin FC, who certainly have the resources and inclination to develop homegrown players for the long term.