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.
Starting the year off of the right note, Atletico de Kolkata has been continuously hosting recruitment drives to find talented youth for the grassroots development programme as well as for their proposed academy. Since January 16th, the club has been organising scouting festivals at different locations across the city. These festivals have been conducted by coaches Bastab Roy, Barun Sengupta, Archisman Biswas, Aditya Chatterjee and Biswajit Ghoshal.
The response at the first grassroots event was absolutely overwhelming with 195 youth attending the programme at Municipality Corporation Ground in Kolkata. The children were divided into 4 groups of around 60 participants each. Scouting was carried out in each group for around 50 minutes. Each coach submitted their list of candidates to head coach, Bastab Roy, to go ahead and finalise the shortlisted players.
The club then conducted another grassroots event on 22nd January at the Kalyani Stadium where 75 children attended. Another coach, Kuntala Ghosh Dastidar, joined the team to identify talented youth. This time there were 4 groups of around 20 participants each. After the scouting process, coaches submitted their recommendations to Bastab Roy. A week later, 134 youngsters attended the programme at Jadavpur Lalwalka Ground on January 29th. The following day, 278 participants attended the programme at Shyamnagar Prabhati Sangha Ground.
The numbers continued to rise, and all through the month of February, hundreds of youth attended the club’s grassroots scouting events. Here’s a quick look at the response they received:
Over the past month and a half, Atletico de Kolkata has given over 1600 children in West Bengal a chance to be a part of ISL’s grassroots development programme. While West Bengal, and Kolkata in general, have been known for their love and passion of the sport, the ISL club is doing a great job in developing the grassroots football there.
Apart from all the great work being done by Atletico de Kolkata, we hope that the impending deal between I-League team, East Bengal, and Spanish giants, Real Madrid, will further boost grassroots football in Kolkata.