Jamshedpur, Sept 9: Tata Steel organised a panel discussion on September 5 to discuss the evolution and the future of Football in India. Panelists including R. Vineel Krishna, IAS, Additional Secretary & Director Sports, Youth Services Department, Government of Odisha, Sunando Dhar, CEO, Leagues Department, AIFF, Rohan Sharma, President, Odisha FC, Mandar Tamhane, CEO, Bengaluru FC, and Mukul Vinayak Choudhari, CEO, Jamshedpur FC, participated in the webinar and exchanged their perspectives on the subject. Rajiv Seth, Project Director, NTHA Odisha, and Diksha Tiwari, Consulting Senior Associate Editor, My City Links Magazine, co-moderated the discussion.
Odisha State has great talent in tribal and rural areas. The women’s football team in Odisha has been performing well in the national teams in recent years. They come from poor backgrounds and have shown immense potential. Odisha will host the Women’s Under 17 Football Tournament in the run up to the FIFA event next year.
R. Vineel Krishna said: “Football is a game that does not require great infrastructure or facilities. Greatest players in the game have come from humble backgrounds, who had the talent and love for the game. Football has taken its time to become a popular game, given that India is primarily a cricket crazy nation. I am sure few years down the line Football too will enjoy similar following and popularity in India. ISL has also paved the way for Football in India and revived the hopes for budding talent in the country. The model where the corporates like Tata Steel bring in the expertise has helped promote the sport.”
Mukul Vinayak Choudhari, CEO, Jamshedpur FC, said: “Jamshedpur FC is doing great work to promote grass root football in Jharkhand and specifically in Jamshedpur. We did have a Tata Football Academy for many years that provided a platform to budding talent, however it did not provide professional and expert coaching to train professional players. We have started engaging with schools across the state and touched about 3500 young students so far and will continue further. I am glad Golden Baby Leagues have begun and it’s overwhelming to see the kids and parents participating in it every weekend. We hope the sport will grow and best of talent will get the opportunity to be acknowledged in the times to come.”
The game of football has come a long way in India and has gained immense popularity amongst the youth today. Earlier, it was only popular in few states, but thanks to the growth of television, internet live football events that can be now watched across the globe has helped increase the popularity and following for the game in the last decade. Also, the emergence of local football leagues has given an uplift to the game where talented youth has multiple opportunities to play their favourite game.
Sunando Dhar, CEO, Leagues Department, AIFF, said: “The AIFF has evolved in the last few years, more younger people joining the federation has brought about a change in the leadership, approach and the vision for the game within the country. Our partnership with FIFA has helped us structure the teams and bring out the best talent from all across the country. Now we are identifying talent at a younger age and develop them further with right training and coaching. We started Golden Baby Leagues which broke all of the rules regarding availability of infrastructure and has received great response from young athletes across the country.”
Rohan Sharma, President, Odisha FC, said: “Our goal has been to be able to encourage talent from all corners of the country and be able to bring them to the world. We partnered with the ASPIRE Academy with the intention to provide greater level of training for talented athletes and players like Shubham Sarangi have emerged from it. We have identified few more athletes this year to be trained and be the torchbearers of Odisha FC. We are sure in the times to come football will provide a platform for hundreds of young players and we have great expectations from them.”
Mandar Tamhane, CEO, Bengaluru FC, said: “We introduced the Soccer School programmes across the State to encourage and promote the sport amongst the young kids. We adopt the talented kids and provide them with expert coaching and training. The future of the game is very bright and we are confident Football will soon become the most popular sport in the country.”
Sports has been integral to Tata Steel’s philosophy of nation building. In India, Tata Steel as a corporate, spearheads the promotion of sports through its relentless and constant encouragement to professional sportspersons, amateurs, and its own employees to pursue sports and excel. Tata Steel has been consistently involved in creating and nurturing professional sportspersons through its academies and grassroots feeder centres.