Champions of the Indian Super League’s (ISLs) inaugural season, Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) have done splendid work over the past two years in promoting grassroots football in the city. In 2015 they brought West Bengal’s Indian Football Association’s (IFA) Nursery League back to life. Although their second run in the league was not as successful as the first, the club is still doing what they can for the sport. Co-owners, Sanjiv Goenka and Utsav Parekh are both focused on setting up a football academy in the city and promoting the sport. At their proposed academy, bright young stars can focus on football training while continuing with their academics as well.
Do you walk back home after a long day at work and often wonder why there aren’t a big group of kids playing in your neighbourhood anymore? Really. Where are they? We remember playing outdoors every day in school at recess and after school with nearby friends until our parents had to literally drag us back home to get homework done (ugh) and eat dinner.
Turns out our observations are true. A recent study of 12,000 parents across 10 countries with kids between the ages of 5 and 12 years revealed that 50% of the children play outside for 1 hour or less while one-third of them spend 30 minutes or less outdoors. The irony – there are prisoners at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Indiana, USA who are promised 2 hours in the open every day. The sad truth – prisoners are better off than our kids when it comes to play time outdoors.
When one of the prisoners was told how little time kids spend outdoors, here’s what he said:
“Wow, that is depressing. That really is.”
We’re compelled to agree. Here’s an eye-opening video for you:
Based in Vasco in football-crazy Goa, Salgaocar FC has been around since 1956. The club was founded by Vasudev Salgaocar, the founder and President of the V M Salgaocar Group of Companies. Passionate about the sport, Mr. Salgaocar decided to form the club to give local youth a platform where they could showcase their talents. After Goa’s independence from Portugal in 1961, Salgaocar was the first Goan team invited to participate in the prestigious Durand Cup in 1962. Although they did not win, they performed so well that the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, felicitated the team at his residence.
Salgaocar FC’s First Team Source: Salgaocar Football Club Facebook Page
In the 1990s, the team went from strength to strength, winning everything from the National League to the Federation Cup. Although, they didn’t perform as well in the early 2000s, they made a hugely successful comeback in the 2010-2011 season by winning the I-League once again. This season, their U-15 team ended the zonal round of the U15 Youth League at the top of the table. They were the only team in the group to end with a positive goal difference, finishing 5 points clear of the runners-up. And they managed all of this by making sure they invested well in their grassroots programme.
We’re always marvelling at footballers who are blessed with immense talent like Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo, and feel there’s no way we could achieve those levels of excellence. True, there may only ever be one Messi or Cristiano, but that doesn’t mean we, as coaches, parents and players, should settle for less.
Talent definitely helps, but as is widely documented, achieving excellence is a lot about discipline, dedication and persistence. In this pursuit, here are 10 tips, which if followed resolutely, can take all of us a very, very long way in life. And guess what? None of them need any ‘talent’!
In the Indian state of West Bengal, and in Kolkata especially, fans are as passionate about football as they are about cricket. This year, a few individuals in the city became proud owners of football teams participating in the Padatik Football League. While the team owners may not be famous Bollywood actors or the league as glamorous as the Indian Super League, the Padatik Football League is a one-of-a-kind event that was started in 2009.
So what’s so special about it? The participants are the children of women from red light areas in the state, prisoners, drug addicts, slum dwellers and tribals. These children don’t have any coaching, but they play with such passion that the league has gradually gained recognition for its work.
Caption: A Padatik Football League match underway Source: DMSC Facebook
A product of one of Argentina’s most successful football clubs, Club Atletico Boca Juniors, the Boca Juniors Football School came to India in 2013. Home to legendary footballers like Diego Maradona, Carlos Tevez and Gabriel Batistuta, Boca Juniors was the first South American club to launch in India. Over the past 3 years they have operated in 6 schools across Bangalore, and their youth participated in this season’s U15 I-League tournament.
Maradona Celebrates a Goal for Boca Juniors in 1981 Source: The Antique Football
An $185 million investment. 160 acres. 50 football pitches. A partnership with Real Madrid. Hogwarts-style buildings. 2,600 boys. 200 girls. And it was all built in 10 months. Welcome to Evergrande Football School in Qingyuan, Guangdong (rural southern China).
Kids training at Evergrande Football School, China Source: www.thestar.com
Driven by Chinese President, Xi Jinping’s passion for football, Evergrande Football School is symbolic of how far ahead China has gone ahead of India in the effort to nurture grassroots talent. Their goal is to have China compete at the World Cup again (after 2012) and, who knows, even challenge traditional powerhouses like Germany, Argentina and Brazil in the years to come.
Looks a brilliant facility. Wonder when we’ll have something like it in India…
The launch of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) has definitely encouraged the sport of football in the country. While more youth have been drawn to the sport, the ISL teams are doing what they can to give youngsters a platform to showcase their talent. After winning the inaugural season of the league, Atletico de Kolkata brought West Bengal’s Indian Football Association’s (IFA) Nursery League back to life. While some may argue that the team had selfish interests in doing so, the fact of the matter is that nearly 2000 children below the age of 14 got a chance to play competitive football. The club used the league to source new talent to train, and the team’s talent spotters looked for 15 to 20 children to send for the ISL grassroots development programme.
In the second season of the ISL, the West Bengal team were unable to reach the finals, but they haven’t let this interfere with their strong grassroots programme. Sanjiv Goenka, co-owner of the club, has spoken about his hopes of also acquiring a foreign team, but for now, his immediate focus is to build a football academy in Kolkata and really work on grassroots football in the country.
The 1st ISL Champions Source: Atletico de Kolkata Facebook Page
Sorry! We’ve been a bit sloppy with our posts over the past week. Life has a funny way of swamping you with a bunch of busy sometimes. The one thing we did not miss, however, was this absolute beaut by Dimitri Payet:
Stunning, innit? But what’s even more shocking is the fact that Payet, given his tremendous natural footballing talent, nearly gave up the sport 13 years ago. If it weren’t for his father and uncle, Payet might have gone off the football map after being released from the Le Havre academy in France as a 16-year-old; the very same academy that has produced Riyad Mahrez and Paul Pogba.
Speaking about those dark days after being released, Payet says: