AIFF Media Team
NEW DELHI: Football is growing in India, and Grassroots is a key area that can ensure further development in the long run. The All India Football Federation, in it’s effort to broad base the game across the country is meticulously planning the Grassroots activities for the future, and the Football for Schools programme in association with FIFA and the Ministry for Education, Entrepreneurship and Skill Development is a key activity in it.
Earlier last month, on October 18, the AIFF Grassroots Committee met online to discuss the activities that the Federation would undertake in order to broad base the game. The meeting was also attended by AIFF President Mr. Kalyan Chaubey and Secretary General Dr. Shaji Prabhakaran. Grassroots Committee Chairman Mr. Mulrajsinh Chudasama, believes that support from the Education Ministry will go a long way in helping spread football to 25 million children over the next five years.
“The Education Ministry has played a crucial role in helping us identify that we can, through FIFA’s programme, reach out to as many as 25 million children over the course of the next few years,” said Mr. Mulrajsinh, also the Deputy Chairman of the Development Committee.
Under the Football for Schools programme, FIFA is set to provide a total of 10 lakh footballs to India, that will then be distributed to schools across the land. The AIFF, for it’s part, is putting together a meticulous plan that will help drive the programme forward.
“We are submitting a report to the AIFF President (Mr. Kalyan Chaubey) every month about the Grassroots activities, and Football for Schools is a central part of it,” said Mr. Mulrajsinh. “FIFA will send the balls in different batches, and we are looking to diversify to 10 different states every year.”
The distribution of the footballs will be done through the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, which has numerous schools operating under it across India. While the initial plan was to send 100 footballs to every school (10,000 schools per year), the Committee has decided to send them in batches of 20 at a time.
“We have planned to distribute the balls in batches, because we can reach out to more schools and then send out more balls in successive batches once the first 20 are used to the limit,” he said. “We also plan to monitor the progress made by these schools, and how and whether they have put these to good use.”
One major part of Grassroots development is Baby Leagues, something that the Grassroots Committee has keenly set it’s eyes on improving, especially in areas where football is not as popular.
“It’s very important that we have the Baby Leagues to create that football culture, in areas where there is none,” said Mr. Mulrajsinh. “That will help set the base for the next generation to start playing, talking, and thinking about the game. Only then will the culture of football begin in such areas.”
Mr. Mulrajsinh Chudasama, who himself has been conducting Baby Leagues prior to the pandemic in his hometown, Bhavnagar, Gujarat, has seen such transformations.
“In the lowest age groups of the Baby Leagues that we had conducted in Bhavnagar, many kids had absolutely no idea about football. They would often pick up the ball with their hands and throw it around,” laughed Mr. Mulrajsinh. “But then they slowly started learning, and by the end of the Baby League, they understood the rules and were quite enjoying themselves.”
While getting more children to play football is one part of the ordeal, another crucial part of Grassroots development is to have licensed coaches training them even at the base level. The AIFF E Certificate coaching license will be conducted to create a broader base of Grassroots coaches across the country. However, Mr. Mulrajsinh feels that the work for that needs to start with training more coach instructors, who can, in turn, train more coaches.
“Right now, we have only seven coach instructors who can teach at the E License courses. We plan to have at least around 125 of them, so that we can host these courses and build a base of Grassroots coaches all across India,” said the Grassroots Committee Chairman. “Our plan is to have at least two instructors train the candidates in each course.”
Overall, the Grassroots Committee has set its target on fulfilling a 20-point criteria set by the AFC in terms of identifying what level the Grassroots activities in a certain country are.
“Right now, India is at the bronze stage in terms of AFC’s gradation for the Grassroots activities. We want to take it to the silver stage first, and then eventually to gold. There are a number of criteria that we need to follow, and that we are working on at the moment, and these are aimed at improving the overall Grassroots activities in order to broad base the game in India,” said Mr. Mulrajsinh.