Grassroots Football lays the foundation of the sport, and its primary aim is to increase participation for children, youth, amateurs, veterans, those with physical disabilities, cerebral palsy, the visually impaired and even the socially disadvantaged.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) defines grassroots football as 'All football which is non-professional and non-elite'. It intends to bring all together by providing access to Football regardless of age, gender, physical condition, skin colour, religion or ethnic origin.
Blue Cubs is the AIFF's flagship grassroots programme that aims to establish a robust foundation for Indian Football. It is part of the Strategic Roadmap ‘Vision 2047’, and its target is to engage 35 million children between the ages of 4-12 by 2026 and take the number up to 100 million by 2047.
June 23, the birth anniversary of Pradip Kumar Banerjee, India's captain in the 1960 Rome Olympics and popularly known as PK, is celebrated as the 'AIFF Grassroots Day'.
Grassroots is at the very heart of the plan we are executing here at the Federation, and the Blue Cubs project will play a central role in our long-term development. It is our hope that more children come through the system through the Blue Cubs programme, and the elite players eventually join the junior categories in domestic and international football.
Blue Cubs will create a robust and vibrant grassroots structure in Indian football. Developing grassroots football is one of my personal priorities and I will continue to draw more focus to enlarging the grassroots landscape in India.
Not only will the Blue Cubs programme introduce a well-organised system that caters to children between ages 4 to 12, but the AIFF will also launch the Blue Clubs League, which will put the youngsters in competition mode from a very early age.
As per the plans under the Blue Cubs programme, children between the ages 4-6 will play 2v2 and 3v3 formats without goalkeepers on a smaller pitch, the size of which would gradually increase as they move forward to age 7-9 (5v5 format), and 10-12 (7v7 format). These leagues will also have rotational goalkeepers.
It is through the efforts of all parties involved that the Federation intends to grow the beautiful game as a whole. Right from volunteers, parents, and coaches, to schools, clubs, NGOs, and state associations, the Blue Cubs programme intends to create a wide grassroots network with holistic growth of youth development.
Through various collaborative efforts, the Elite Blue Cubs will also be identified and further nurtured as future prospects for the National Teams.
The Blue Cubs programme will also cover a wide array of elements to help in community building, encouraging children to take leadership roles, enhancing the level of school and village football, installing better pitches, digital accessibility, talent identification, arranging festivals, leagues and futsal tournaments, and also help the kids understand nutrition at a young age.