With recent exposure to the I-League youth competition and visits from international players like Jofre Mateu, football has been on the rise in Anantapur. After a very progressive season, Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA) kicked off their annual summer football camp on May 1st. Held in collaboration with Spanish football club C. F. Santvicenti, the camp created an air of excitement amongst the kids and coaches, like it does every year. M P Ricard returned to this year’s ASA football summer camp for the third consecutive year to enjoy yet another immersive and educative experience with the children in Anantapur .
Apart from popularising football in the country, the Indian Super League (ISL) is doing a good job of encouraging clubs to invest in grassroots football. In 2015, the Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) initiative was kick-started as part of the ISL’s grassroots programme. The RFYC Program makes use of the ISL’s clubs’ grassroots initiatives to spot talented children from across the country between the ages of 11 and 14. The Foundation then offers the most talented and deserving children full-time residential scholarships to the Reliance Foundation School.
The RFYC Scouts with the Talents Picked by Atletico de Kolkata Source: Indian Super League
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.
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
It has been a highly promising football season for the Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA), capped by the performance of the U15 and U18 teams. These teams have shown great promise, playing for a professional I-League team, Fateh Hyderabad AFC. They eventually brought back goodwill to the Rural Development Trust’s (RDT) investment, and have promoted its objective of inculcating a sporting and footballing culture among the youth in the Anantapur District.
Seeing the spark that these youngsters have rekindled in football in Anantapur, the ASA has decided to reach out to more children. This time however, they believe that they need to nurture younger talent to reach their objective. They are looking to broaden the ASA football programme by bringing children in the U11, U13 and U15 categories on board at the residential academy. For this they roped in professional assistance in the form of Spaniard Jofre Mateu Gonzalez, a highly popular household name, and one of the most successful foreign players in the Indian Super League. Jofre Mateu won the inaugural 2014 ISL season with Atletico de Kolkata and was a part of FC Goa, the runners-up in the 2015 season.
Mumbai FC worked together with the Mumbai District Football Association (MDFA) and For Young Indians (FYI) Sports to give the youth of the city a chance to play football competitively. Mumbai FC also used the league as a way to scout talented youth that they could train for their own youth teams. At the end of the league, 15 students from each age category (U8 boys, U10 boys, U12 boys, U14 girls and U14 boys) will be chosen to train with Mumbai FC for a whole year for free. As an open league, there were schools, academies and even NGOs who participated, with schools like Don Bosco and St. Pauls, and academies like Mumbai Sporting and Christ Academy sending in numerous teams.