FC Goa President Akshay Tandon has been supervising the establishment of a solid grassroots framework for providing training opportunities for budding Indian footballers. The coming of ISL has served to be beneficial in terms of the improvements and development of football infrastructure in India.
A lot of star names have been associated with the Indian Super League (ISL) which has rekindled India's love for football. Thanks to the ISL, the most important issues such as infrastructure and training are now being taken care of at a professional level.
FC Goa's President, Akshay Tandon, has been making efforts to setup a grassroots framework for grooming the youngsters early so that by the time they come of age they have all the tools necessary to take the game to the level in India. FC Goa, the 2015 ISL finalists, are striving to ensure an apt structure for youth development in order to provide proper coaching from a young age.
"We already have the entire grassroots team up and running. We have 16 centers- eight in the north (Goa), eight in the south (Goa). We have about 12 full-time coaches who are a part of this and there are an additional 30-to-40 coaches working on a part-time basis who have other jobs like PE (Physical Education) teachers or other coaching jobs," told Tandon while talking to Goal.
The main aim of the Goan club this year is to promote the training of young talents and ensure that there is no interruption owing to unfavorable circumstances.
"This year is all about strengthening the existing program, for which we are talking to a lot of schools and their Principals. Our primary focus for this year is to ensure that the kids who have signed up for our grassroots program are attending on a regular basis, their coaching is regular and is not interrupted. That's already happening from the age groups of six to 13," Tandon said.
Age-group tournaments are beneficial for the development of the game as they provide the kids with crucial competitive game experience. FC Goa recognizes the need of such tournaments and will be working to introduce such games.
"To complement the coaching from what is done elsewhere in India and also in Goa, while there are tournaments and leagues that exist for U-13 and above, there isn't much for six to 13. So last year, we piloted two leagues - one U-10 and one U-12. They were very successful. We had engagements from over 64 schools," says Tandon.
"There was also a very good participation from the parents which is also very important. So this year we are planning on eight leagues which should kick-off by October. The idea is not to do numbers but to improve the quality of coaching and the kind of competition we are giving the kids.
"We already have U-13, U-15 and U-18 squads who have professional coaches who conduct three sessions (per week). Again, we want to ensure the quality and that the sessions are more regular. We used to have a squad of 35 in these age bracket squads last year, but this year we are reducing that to 25 in order to focus on really developing those who are selected," elaborates Tandon, emphasizing the focus on quality.
FC Goa has also taken up a ground on lease for their developmental squad and that too near a residential setup in order to provide make shift residential facilities for the youngsters.
"Right now, we have taken the Chowgule University ground on lease for our entire youth program - from the U-13s till the U-23s. For the U-18s till the U-23s we have taken up three apartments very close to the grounds which is going to function as the residence for the outstation as well as the entire squad from morning till evening so that we can control their diet, rest, and environment a little more," he said.
"We have also created a makeshift residential facility for our developmental squad which was part of Derrick Pereira’s agenda but we are going to have the residential facility for our developmental squad only for this year depending on how our program and how our conversation with the government goes. We are going to make provisions for our own residential facilities in the next six months or so."
Moreover, the kids do not have to shell out a single penny from their pockets. However, a paid program might be launched in the near future, once they setup a strong and efficient training program.
"Right now, this entire training program is entirely free. We don't charge anything for any of our grassroots programs or even any of the leagues that we conduct," said Tandon.
"We are looking for brand partners to help in our existing programs first and once we feel that we have a strong program for the best football players across the state, we are also going to be looking at deploying paid programs for coaching like the football school models that are held all over the world."
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