The propagation of grassroots football works best when all stakeholders involved concentrate on building and expanding the base of the player pyramid structure – working hand-in-hand with the national federation to improve the quality and the quantity of talent.
“We have enjoyed a lot of success through our presentations to stakeholders in explaining the state of Indian football and the need to address the change from the bottom”, said AIFF’s Head of Player Development Richard Hood. “The use of facts and evidence with an honest reflection of the past has allowed for a strong and clear message to conveyed and we are seeing the entities willing to take the league forward grow steadily.”
State Associations play a pivotal role in the development of grassroots football and with the All India Football Federation’s revolutionary Baby Leagues extending the horizons of youth football, State Associations have adopted the setup while some have even implemented the system.
“So far we have have had Maharashtra (WIFA) and Mumbai District (MDFA) sign the ‘Player Development Pact’ in August 2017 and since then have used their strong network of WIFA-Mumbai City FC accredited centres to start a formidable league which will now aim to target the school network and grow the 25 million strong population into a genuine stronghold”, informed Richard Hood.
Northeast India is one of the football hotspots in the nation and with grassroots football already a part of the culture in the seven sisters, it was a matter of time before the Baby League concept revolutionized football’s growth.
“Meghayala signed with us in July 2017 and have submitted a really strong and exciting proposal for the concept which will start in Shillong and grow to neighbouring districts and will involve the community-based model that their football identity is built on.”
“Mizoram came on board in January 2018 and already had a Baby League running operated by 8One foundation in Champhai district which was endorsed by some of the biggest names in Mizoram football. They have shown fantastic willingness and initiative to take the project forward in other districts and have multiple leagues run in Aizawl in the months to come. The emerging futsal culture will be integrated into the model as well”, Hood stated.
Commending the setup of Baby Leagues in the States which have implemented the system, Richard Hood said, “We have seen some fantastic leadership and teamwork in each of these states purely on the basis of collective mindset to commit to a singular process for 12-15 years in producing players and the roadmap ahead will first be to strengthen what is already our strengths and take the project forward to willing states, clubs and stakeholders.”