AIZAWL, Oct 17 – The Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) launched its first ever Grassroots Football Programme for India here in the remote hilly State with over a dozen of football crazy youths participating in it.
The programe was inaugurated by Chief Minister Lalthanhawla, who happened to be the founder president of the Mizoram Football Association (MFA) three decades ago.
Lalthanhawla, who represented the State in various national football tournaments, recalled that in those days, football was played on slushy or dusty grounds depending on the weather.
“Who would have thought that FIFA would be here at our own door-step to train our children,” he said pronouncing it as a red letter day in the sporting history of Mizoram.
The programe, which envisages a three-month-long course for children aged between 6 and 12 years implemented through the All India Football Federation (AIFF), started with a four-day orientation camp for 28 handpicked MFA coaches, which included two women.
The coaches will then be the “grassroots leaders” who will in turn conduct the course for the children throughout the State.
Through the course, FIFA-AIFF hopes to chaff out some kids who exhibit strong footballing potential for world class grooming, said Scott O’Donell, FIFA representative and chief instructor in AIFF. Those hand-picked are sure to eventually land up in a FIFA football academy.
This is the first ever FIFA grassroots programme in India. This FIFA-AIFF pilot project – to be held in all the States of the country – aims to hunt world class football talent.
O’Donell said, “FIFA wants to create a base from where talent can be spotted and supported,” he said.
He praised Mizoram for having a “sustainable grassroots plan” in place and that this was the reason for choosing Mizoram as the starting point of this programe. He also said that it is notable that the State has at least three astro-turf grounds which is a FIFA requirement, a rare thing in the country.
Lalthanhawla promised football lovers every necessary facilities so that talented local youths can put the State and the country on the global football map.
With FIFA ready to contribute its technical resources and skilled experts for this task, MFA president Lalthanzara, a minister in the government, was fully hopefull that within the next five years the State would throw up some formidable talent into the world of football. “FIFA and AIFF is committed to Indian football; we have seen it today,” he said at the inaugural function on Monday.
O’Donell said that the kids are expected to pay a registration fee of Rs 1,000 each as this would bring about a better commitment to the course from both the kids and their parents. With each registration comes a full FIFA football kit.
Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands ousted German qualifier Michael Berrer 7-6(7), 6-3.
Elsewhere, Russia’s Konstantin Kravchuk defeated Evgeny Korolev of Kazakhstan 6-4, 6-3 in a battle of two qualifiers.