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AIFF gets corporate partner for Goa academy

Bharti Enterprises would also pick up the tab for the under-16 team's preparations ahead of the Asian Championship finals this October, reports Dhiman Sarkar.

sports Updated: Jan 04, 2008 17:28 IST
Diman Sarkar

On board a Delhi-Kolkata flight last April, Priyaranjan Dasmunshi had mentioned to HT a corporate major's desire to connect with football. Four days into the new year, desire fructified into a MoU between the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Bharti Enterprises. One which promises investment of a 'few hundred crores' over the next 10 years; one which Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and group CEO, said would be the single largest financial activity outside cricket.

For starters, a 'world class' academy will be built in Goa for 100 boys. Dasmunshi said work on the academy would start by March 31. Bharti Enterprises would also pick up the tab for the under-16 team's preparations ahead of the Asian Championship finals this October. That programme including exposure tours would be finalised after Colin Toal, in charge of the youth teams, returns from vacation next week.

Beyond the promise of an academy which will match the best in business, not much was forthcoming by way of details except that agreement for land hasn't been inked. Minor details, an AIFF official assured, amid talk of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup finals and soon after Mittal mentioned the possibility seeking technical help from Manchester United for grooming tomorrow's stars.

A company official said development models also being looked at are China, Japan and even the USA whose football is headed by Sunil Gulati, an American of Indian origin. With AIFF general-secretary Alberto Colaco pointing out that existing MoUs with Deutsche Fusball Liga, which runs the Bundesliga, and Portugal have huge scope for youth development, possibly a programme drawing on salient features of all would be chalked out.

Colaco said boys from eight to 18 years would be part of this public-private enterprise's golden 100. Each group would have 25 players scanned by spotters and chosen on the basis of their performance in AIFF age-group competitions. That would mean those joining in the youngest bracket could be, in line with national coach Bob Houghton's prescription for development, a trainee for 10 years.

With talk of another academy coming up in Haryana, possibly in association with an oil major, Tata Tea seeking help from Arsenal and an art auction house taking over a club here it seems Sepp Blatter's exhortation to corporate barons to invest in football has made some dent. More will follow, Mittal, also chairman Confederation of Indian Industry, assured. Maybe then, India can hope to make up for lost time in what, according to Dasmunshi, is an industry first and a beautiful game later.