Monday, January 7, 2008

Football lovers apprehensive about funds getting misused

In a cricket-worshipping nation, it came like a whiff of fresh breeze when a MoU was signed between telecom giant Sunil Bharati Mittal and All India Football Federation recently. According to this MoU, a Rs 100 crore grant will be given to the Indian football team, in the hope that India will make it to the World Cup within a decade. What’s more, a football academy to train young talent under 18 will soon be set up in Goa.

While some of the present and former footballers and coaches opine that this corporate grant will give the much-needed impetus to the game, others are skeptical about benefits reaching the grassroot levels. C.R. Viswanathan, AIFF vice president, coaching, technical and professional committee, says, "Our first step will be to make India qualify as a major football playing nation in Asia. For that, we will come up with football academies that will be equipped with the latest techniques to train young talent."

Victor Amal Raj, former captain of the Indian football team and AGM (Sports) at FCI, says, "The grant will give the game a boost. But we need academies of international standards not just in one or two places but also in different states. These should have consistent coaching facilities for different age groups like under 12, under 14 and under 16 just as it’s present in Manchester United or Real Madrid," says Raj.

And R. Vincent Paul, former player of the Indian Railway and referee for Andhra Pradesh, adds, "A five to six member All-India committee should be set up. It should plan the projects to be undertaken and utilise the money in setting up football academies zone wise. Each state should escort their talent to the respective zone. Factors like diet, physiotherapy, sports doctor, expert FIFA coaches, regular test of the players every six months and foreign exposure should be taken care of," says Mr Paul.

Footballer of South-Central Railway, Anthony Jude, wonders whether all the football talents of the country will benefit from the grant. "Earlier, FIFA’s Rs 100 crore grant didn’t reach the proper channels."

But Bhaichung Bhutia is hopeful that with proper planning and utilisation of funds, many deserving players will get coaching facilities. "The infrastructure and system will get a facelift. We can start off with an academy in Goa and then depending on its success, gradually come up with academies in other parts of India," says Bhutia. But former Andhra Pradesh football coach, Aleem Khan, complains that the grant may not benefit AP. "Even though we have talent in AP, football is suffering due to internal politics. AIFF should intervene with the AP government, or we will miss out on the grant," he says