On May 15th, 2016, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) celebrated a very successful Grassroots Football Day. A number of member associations joined in the festivities, and India was not to be left out. Over the course of the day, numerous football festivals were held across the country, and impacted well over 10,000 young children. From New Delhi to Anantapur, and Manipur to Punjab, over 100 districts celebrated the joys of grassroots football.
In Assam’s capital, Guwahati, 70 young players took part in the AFC Grassroots Day celebrations that were organised at the Nehru Stadium by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), while over 100 boys and girls joined in the festivities at DPS Khanapara. Youth in the U12 category enjoyed playing football in the large Nehru Stadium, and at the end of the day a small award ceremony was conducted where players with phenomenal talent and promise were awarded with Best Player and Most Promising Player trophies.
In Chandigarh, Minerva Academy celebrated AFC’s Grassroots Football Day in three venues across the city over 2 days. The football club was able to reach out to over 200 children and their parents via their grassroots festivals. The players thoroughly enjoyed the fun-filled small-sided games, and dribbling and juggling competitions that were organised for them. Minerva wanted to encourage parents to send their children out to play by showing them how important sport is, not just physically or socially, but also because of the fun children have while playing. Youngsters Club also celebrated the event in Chandigarh, and 478 children from Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula participated in the club’s grassroots festival.
“This is the first time we have celebrated the AFC Grassroots Day and it’s really worth it. Seeing kids so happy with a football is something we live for. I am sure this two-day event will ring a bell of change in the Chandigarh Football Circuit, especially amongst the kids.” – Ranjit Bajaj, Club Director, Minerva Academy
In Andhra Pradesh, the rural district of Anantapur also celebrated AFC’s Grassroots Football Day with much gusto. The Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA) invited football clubs from all its 25 mandals to send youth between the ages of 6 and 12 to be a part of their Grassroots Football Day celebrations. A total of 207 children joined the coaches at the Anantapur Sports Village (ASV), where they were divided into 10 groups. During two fun-filled sessions, the children played numerous games like cricket with a football, tennis with a football, caterpillar, monkey in the middle, and more. Towards the end of the day, all the children enjoyed small-sided games on the football and cricket grounds at ASV.
“We closely followed the AIFF and AFC guidelines and came up with our own drills to subconsciously teach the children the basics of football, while showing them the physical and psychological benefits of the game. We kept in mind that if done well, these children would come back wanting more, eventually growing our grassroots structure while adding to the popularity of the sport, which is what the AIFF and AFC have been looking to achieve through this nationwide program.” – Shaikh Moulali, Senior ASA Football Academy Player and AFC-GFD Mentoring Coach
Across Maharashtra, the Western India Football Association (WIFA) organised a number of grassroots festivals in the cities of Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Kolhapur and Dhule. In Mumbai, the Mumbai District Football Association (MDFA) and Mumbai Football Club planned a fun-filled day for the 80 U12 boys and girls who turned up at the St. Xavier’s Ground, Parel to celebrate football. Mumbai FC’s Head of Youth Development and Assistant Coach, Kundan Chandra kept a close watch over the entire festival along with a number of licensed instructors, MDFA volunteers and the parents of the participating children. The children who had gathered at the grounds enjoyed the small-sided games and learnt basic skills through fun exercises.
“We need to work on the physical and psychological ability of the children; for them to cope under situations by formulating correct decisions at a given time. Grassroots development refers to the overall development of the community and society, and not only football.” – Kundan Chandra, Head of Youth Development, Kundan Chandra
On May 15th, a number of clubs from the I-League and Indian Super League, State Associations, Grassroots Centres and over 70 private academies came together to celebrate football in India. The grassroots festivals and clinics that were held were focused on creating more opportunities for India’s talented youth. Salgaocar FC championed the cause in Goa, while SAI Football Academy, Pune FC and United Poona Sports Academy took the sport to the young players in Pune. A grand success, we look forward to seeing more kids getting involved in the sport, and truly enjoying the beautiful game.
Here’s a look at just how much fun the kids in Mumbai had while celebrating AFC’s Grassroots Football Day: