AIFF Media Team
NEW DELHI: To say Himachal Pradesh had ever remained one of the frontrunners in Indian football would certainly be an exaggeration. Despite occasional successes, the state was mostly considered among the also runs on the domestic circuit.
Things, however, have changed in the past few years. In the most noticeable way, to say the least. The lack of resources and infrastructure has not deterred football in Himachal from marching ahead. And to show the right direction, the Himachal Pradesh Football Association has done a commendable job in the last few years.
“We are a small state with limited resources,” said Mr. Deepak Sharma, the Honorary General Secretary of HPFA. “But it hasn’t stopped us from raising the bar in Himachal football. We are doing everything to take the game ahead here, with special emphasis on youth development and women’s football,” he added.
Mr. Sharma is not far from the truth. Certainly not. Even a casual glance at Himachal Pradesh's football report card in the last one year would clearly show that there is no dearth of football activities in the ‘Land of Gods’. It is not only about organising tournaments; the HPFA has conducted a series of license courses, grassroots day celebrations, camps for junior boys and girls, inter-district championships and inter-college championships for girls.
“The Inter-college women’s championship was like a feather in our cap,” said Mr. Sharma. “Because never before in the state was such a tournament held. Yes, Himachal Pradesh University organised the event, but the entire technical support was provided by the HPFA,” explained Mr. Sharma, who is also a member of the All India Football Federation Executive Committee.
Having followed the ‘Vision 2047’ project of the AIFF, the HPFA has attached a lot of importance to grassroots development. In May 2023, the HPFA organised the AFC Grassroots Day Celebration at Khad Football Stadium in Una. The event featured the participation of six schools in tournaments with separate categories for U-12 and U-16 boys. The HPFA also made sure an exhibition match for girls was held on this occasion to promote and encourage greater participation of girls in football.
HPFA spread its grassroots wing further. The AIFF Grassroots Day was celebrated by HPFA on June 23, 2023, simultaneously at two places, Chamba and Sirmaur. More than 100 young footballers participated in the celebrations, where several coaches were available to guide and provide coaching tips to young players.
“Our relentless efforts have paid dividends,” pointed out Mr. Sharma. “Previously, Himachal players rarely went out of the state to play. But now the scene is different. Vishal Kaith, who plays for Senior India, is originally from Himachal.
“We feel particularly proud when we see our women footballers do well at the national level. Riya Sharma from Khad, Una, participated in the IWL as she was selected by Goa’s Churchill Brothers. Our boys are also doing well. Dheeraj Sharma is a young boy, he has been picked by ISL team Odisha FC,” he said.
The welcome surge in a good number of quality footballers coming from Himachal is a result of constant efforts in the area of youth development. The HPFA made sure that the state sub-junior boys inter-district championships and the U-17 boys league were held in time in Nadaun, Hamirpur, and Una successfully with a good number of districts and clubs taking part.
The HPFA Honorary Secretary said: “There is no dearth of efforts on our part. We are regularly in touch with the state government so that we receive more help in the form of resources and infrastructure. The government also trying its best to see football progress in Himachal Pradesh. I can assure the football fans that the day is not far away when Himachal Pradesh’s football will be a topic of discussion in the Indian football fraternity.”