If you are a real Indian football fan, the All India Football Federation Regional Academy in Navi Mumbai is your destination. All you need to do is devote half an hour from your schedule to watch the boys at work. You are bound to leave the premises of Father Agnel Sports Complex, a happy Indian football fan!
On Friday evening (January 18, 2013), a day before the second International Friendly between the Indian Women and their Dutch counterparts at the same venue, the AIFF Media paid a low-key visit to the first Regional Academy to be set up in India.
That the 27 boys were doing very well under the tutelage of the trio of Head Coach Sajid Dar, his deputy Aqueel Ansari and goalkeeping Coach Mario Aguiar could be gauged from the fact that the colts are already attracting good crowds even in practice sessions. Some are also known by their name.
“I stay nearby. Football has always been my passion. I follow Indian football on a regular basis. Mostly I come in the evening to watch these kids play. From a layman’s point of view, I can vouch for them. They’ll fly really high,” a 68-year old ‘spectator’ confessed.
The yearly calendar of these budding talents is divided into four sessions. In between they get breaks to go home. Each day is divided into core sessions, where the boys are made to do strengthening exercises, and non-core sessions which take place in the evening from 4 to 6 o’clock.
The core sessions are done on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour from 7-8 AM. Otherwise the daily sessions are done in the evening. The boys enjoy Sundays off.
Every Saturday they play teams from outside the Academy, even teams from the Elite Division in Mumbai’s local league. Further, these future aspirants beat them too!
“We defeated PIFA, which plays in the Elite Division here 2-1. It was a big day for the boys. Then we also got the better of the Air India U-19 team,” confirmed Sajid.
“Basically we work on the module set by Scott (O’Donell) AIFF Technical Director, Academies, also the Director of Coach Education. According to the module, we work on a certain aspect of the game every day. For example, today we are focusing on pressing. So the boys will concentrate on pressing for the ball throughout the course of the match we play between ourselves,” Ansari chipped in.
“Each and every session is match related. That has been the philosophy here.” he added.
Almost interrupting him, Dar clarified: “I keep hearing people demanding results. Products are not developed over such a short period. It will take time but as the Head Coach of the Academy I can see these boys playing for India five or six years down the line.
“The fact that they stay together for most part of the year also helps immensely. You see the camaraderie stays a vital aspect too. The day they will represent India, it will be mission successful for the three of us here.”
The emotion was there in Dar’s voice. After all, these 27 future prospects share a father-son relationship with him. In fact all the three Coaches treat the boys like their own. Along with the managers of the Academy, the unit is a family in fine fettle.
(AIFF Press Release)