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An academic boost for the beautiful game

sports Updated: Aug 16, 2009 00:49 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times
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Two separate private initiatives are kitting up to woo India’s young ones with football. One is an academy in the Capital’s NCR region seeking equity partnership with a foreign club. The other is the brainchild of a schools’ chain aiming to make healthier students, if not quality footballers.

Both aim to give Indian football a leg-up in the long run and have a 2012 connection. Together, they are budgeted at nearly Rs 45 crore.

Convinced that football’s the fitness mojo for its students, the Ryan Group will launch a programme this month in 30 of its institutions spread over New Delhi, Mumbai, Surat, Chandigarh and Bangalore.

From under-six to under-18, the starting pool will have 6000 to 8000 boys and girls, Francis Joseph, the group’s strategic head, told HT.

By 2012, Shaji Prabhakaran, advisor and former director of the Asian Football Confederation’s Vision India development, said, a Centre of Excellence, estimated to cost at least Rs 5 crore, would be set up for students who can make a career out of football. All this at no extra cost to the student.

Ex-internationals like Shamshi Reza and Aqueel Ansari are among the 20-odd coaches recruited for Mission 2026, the programme thus named because that is how long the group believes it would take to produce footballers good enough to play for India. Bhaichung Bhutia and Abhishek Yadav are being looked at as advisors because the India strikers have shown that education and sport aren’t mutually exclusive.

Apart from group chairman Dr Augustine Pinto’s enthusiasm, Joseph said they believe “running and jogging are critical to every child’s development.” “Also, football gives every child gets an equal opportunity. And sport builds confidence and helps combat curriculum pressure,” he said.

Joseph said seminars have been conducted in all five cities involving the schools’ principals, sports teachers, parents and students and response from all the stakeholders has been positive.

“Whatever the challenge, we would see out this project,” Joseph said.

Academy in Delhi

The academy is the brainchild of a 39-year-old Delhi entrepreneur who does not want to be identified yet. The idea, he said, germinated a couple of years back because his son, now 13, is sold on the game.

“I looked at the demand-and-supply situation and saw that while demand has soared, supply remains what it was when we were in school,” he said.

“The TFA (Tata Football Academy) in Jamshedpur which, in lieu of nothing else available, can be called the best is a do-able thing.”

To be designed by European architects, the academy too is working to a 2012 deadline and has Prabhakaran as advisor.

It will accommodate 80-90 boys between under-14 to under-18 and be close to a major school in New Delhi, ‘because like me, no parent would want to compromise on education.’

It will have two all-weather fields and one full-size natural turf football field. A team of six Indian coaches will be headed by someone from either Europe or Brazil.

“The cost for this would be anything between Rs 27.5 crore to Rs 40 crore depending on the land we choose from the shortlist.

“To sell this idea to parents and to sustain it, equity participation from a foreign club would be necessary and feelers are being sent for that too,” the entrepreneur said.