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.
Signing Up for AFC Grassroots Football Day Source: ASA
How many times have we heard that tiring title before? “The Sleeping Giants of World Football”. As India Coach, Stephen Constantine says in the video below:
“It doesn’t mean anything. [The ‘sleeping giant’ title] I really don’t understand. Possibly we’re not sleeping and we’re in a coma and we need to wake the hell up. And we will.”
While Constantine says that the playing surfaces have improved significantly and the players coming through to the national setup are better ‘coached’ than before, he says the one massive factor that has remained the same is the development of youth football – there is no systematic approach or framework to develop young footballers in India. Starting from grassroots football to elite youth development, there needs to be a detailed plan and system implemented so that the best talent reaches the top.
Here are Constantine’s thoughts on youth development in India today:
“[In the 10 years I’ve been away from India] The thing that hasn’t really changed much is the youth development. And we really, really got to put our money and our focus and our energy in developing the youth of India. I think we need to re-establish ourselves, regain the respect of Asia because, at the moment, we are pretty much a laughing stock. That has to change and that will change.”
When speaking about the talent pool available in India, the Coach had this to say:
“There are diamonds everywhere. You got to dig them out, polish them, cut them and then you stick them in a ring. You don’t take a diamond out of the mountain and put it in a ring.”
Here’s the FIFA exclusive video:
From this, it is clear that the only way forward for India is to invest heavily in grassroots football and youth development. Because the strength of a country’s football program is directly related to the strength of its grassroots system.
India’s Under-16 team lost 0-3 to the Iran Under-16s in their penultimate AFC U16 Championship qualifying match in Tabriz City, Iran. Coming into the match on the back of a successful Germany tour and a big win over the Bahrain U16s, the Indians had been quietly confident of giving the hosts a good fight.
The Indian colts actually began strongly as they dominated the opening ten minutes with quality possession. However, Iran scored first in the 15th minute against the run of play. Not to be deterred, the India U16s kept pouring forward but, despite their best efforts, were unable to break down the Iranian defence. Despite the pressure, it was Iran who scored again two minutes before half-time which left the Indians going into the break two goals down. It then got worse in the 57th minute when Iran scored their third goal after which both teams seemed resigned to the result.
The game ended at 0-3 in favour of Iran. The young Blue Tigers will take on the Lebanon U16s who lost 1-2 to Bahrain earlier in the day.
While the German exposure trip began with a narrow loss to Jahn Regensburg, the young Blue Tigers have now settled down and begun to show their quality with better performances. The Indian U16 team have now registered back-to-back wins against German teams, DFI Bad Aibling and JFG Mangfalltal.