The second edition of Golden Baby League in Meghalaya was launched at the State Convention Centre in Shillong on Tuesday (August 5, 2019). The event was marked with the unveiling of the 2019 Meghalaya Baby League (MBL) Trophy by the Chief Minister, Mr. Conrad Sangma and Mr. Banteidor Lyngdoh, Sports and Youth Affairs Minister, Meghalaya.
Ms. Swati Kothari, General Manager, All India Football Federation and Mr. Larsing Ming Sawyan, Vice President, All India Football Federation were also present alongside a host of other dignitaries, representatives of MBL teams, parents and children.
Mr. Sangma, the chief guest, congratulated the Meghalaya Football Association for “this kind of initiative.”
“I congratulate the MFA for this kind of initiative. This will be the biggest Baby League in the country. I am totally in agreement that we must instil skills and reflexes in children from the ages of 4 to 12 because these are the formative years,” the Chief Minister stated.
“I’m sure MFA’s vision of having more national and international players coming from Meghalaya will become a reality,” he added, “In life, sometimes you win, and lose sometimes. These are lessons the children should learn early in their lives. So the Baby League is also about the holistic development of our children.”
After the grand success last season, which saw over 1,600 boys and girls from the age-group 4 years to 13 years playing more than 1,300 matches on weekends over seven months (as reported by MFA), the Meghalaya Football Association are expecting to tap on 5,000-mark this season which, will eventually, make it India’s largest Baby League in the country.
Mr. Larsing Ming echoed the MFA was very keen on taking the MBL forward after the great success last year.
“We are happy that Meghalaya was a frontrunner in adopting the AIFF’s Baby League concept. This year we aim to reach 5,000 children, utilise the skills of 150 referees and train 300 volunteers. The MFA has a 10-year plan. By the end of 2028 we hope to make Meghalaya a more prominent football state that will help India achieve its aim of becoming a powerhouse of Asian football by 2030,” he mentioned.
Mr. Banteidor Lyngdoh, also a former footballer drew the example of Uruguay elaborating the impact of grassroots football.
“One example of a country that has focused so well on grassroots development is Uruguay. We have a long way to go to get to that level, but this is the right platform to find future football stars. Meghalaya can become the next powerhouse of football in India and besides committing to spreading the Baby League to other districts,” he said.
“The state government has also decided to restart the Meghalaya State League, which has been sanctioned thanks to the Chief Minister and start a U-15 Meghalaya State League,” he proposed.
The Baby League will be expanded to 54 teams across six districts and eight locations from a 12-team league held in the inaugural year. The number of teams in the Shillong leg of the league will be expanded to 24, and will be held in three different locations in and around the state capital, while the league will also be held in five other districts around the state, namely West Jaintia Hills, East Jaintia Hills, Ri-Bhoi, West Khasi Hills and West Garo Hills.
Ms. Swati Kothari, General Manager, AIFF also congratulated the MFA “on bridging that gap, and taking the initiative on its own.”
The Baby Leagues and Grassroots Development is a key pillar of sport that will help the AIFF unleash talent. I hope that some of the children playing in the Meghalaya Baby League today will grow up to play in the National Team someday.”
While, Ms. Swati presented the Chief Minister, Sports and Youth Affairs Minister and MFA President with Indian National Team jerseys, the dignitaries were also presented with personalised Baby League jerseys.