AIFF Media Team
NEW DELHI: Come the third week of July, a new chapter will be added to the history of Indian football when the National Camp for the under-16 men’s team starts in Srinagar.
Never before has a National Camp been held in the valley, though the City of Houseboats has a reputation for successfully hosting the Santosh Trophy, the Federation Cup and Hero I-League matches.
The Under-16 men’s team, under newly appointed chief coach Ishfaq Ahmed, will participate in the SAFF U-16 Championship in Bhutan from September 1 to 11. A former international, Ishfaq is one of the finest players in Jammu and Kashmir’s football history. He also holds the distinction of captaining the state in the Santosh Trophy.
Speaking on the development, the All India Football Federation Secretary General, Dr. Shaji Prabhakaran said: "As part of our Vision 2047 to take the game to the newest geographies in India, having first-ever national team coaching camp in Srinagar will surely have a huge impact on local football in Jammu and Kashmir. I have no doubt that the youth of the Valley will be further encouraged to be part of football and we can easily expect more talents to emerge from J&K to play at a higher level in India."
While expressing his deep thanks to the J&K administration, especially the Sports Council of the state, for extending all possible support for holding the camp, Dr. Prabhakaran further said: "I also take this opportunity to express our gratitude and thanks to the J&K administration for hosting our India U16 team coaching camp in Srinagar."
Mr. Sarmad Hafeez, IAS and Secretary, Youth Services and Sports, Department J&K said: "It is a great honour for the J&K administration to host the India national U-16 boys team coaching camp in Srinagar. Football has a big following in J&K, and our youth will tremendously get motivated to see India National Team youth players in Srinagar and we will create further encouragement for football to grow in our territory."
The Head Coach of the U-16 team, Ishfaq Ahmed, said: "The hosting of the U-16 camp in Srinagar is a unique move for many reasons. First, we never had an opportunity to hold a National Camp and it is also a fulfilment of the promise by our President Mr. Kalyan Chaubey and Secretary General Dr. Shaji Prabhakaran, to make the game a pan-India affair. With the Government of J&K providing so much support for the camp, I will do my best to see India emerge champions in the SAFF U-16 tournament."
The camp initially will start with 52 probables picked up by a team of experts from the AIFF after extensive scouting in five zones – East, West, North, West and North East. While the Head Coach himself and Mr. Harjinder Singh, former international and Head of Scouts, AIFF, were involved in the process, several other qualified scouts were also pressed into service to find out the best available talents. The similarities in the weather conditions between Srinagar and Bhutan are also one of the reasons why the camp is being held in the state, widely known as the Heaven on Earth.