FC Madras officially unveiled its youth residential academy in Mahabalipuram on Saturday. The 23-acre campus houses state-of-the-art football pitches, accommodation and learning facilities along with an indoor swimming pool.
There are three football pitches - artificial (synthetic), natural, and hybrid. The natural grass field is 1.5 times the size of the standard football pitch and will be used for training and practice.
Girish Mathrubootham, founder of FC Madras, highlighted that the idea of having a larger natural grass field for training and practice was Jeremy Fishbein’s - the reasoning is that since natural grass wears with use, a larger ground may be divided into parts and used accordingly with sufficient time for revival or recovery. Jeremy was the men’s soccer team head coach at the University of New Mexico.
The hybrid field is a combination of synthetic and natural grass and, according to the club’s director of Sports & Governance CKM Dhananjai, has the USGA base which helps in quick drainage.
Dhananjai said that hybrid pitches are being used in the Tottenham Hotspur F.C. academy. India got its first hybrid pitch in Goa at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium for the FIFA U-17 women’s World Cup in 2022.
He added that the academy provides the ideal platform for its wards to get accustomed to the different types of football pitches.
Dhananjai is the co-founder of the sports analytics firm Sports Mechanics. He was the data coach of the three ICC World title-winning Indian cricket teams (T20 World Cup 2007, Cricket World Cup 2011, and Champions Trophy 2013) and now heads the data and performance analysis of the Indian Premier League (IPL) team Mumbai Indians.
The hybrid field is broadcast-friendly with floodlights, and comes with a gallery that has a seating capacity of 500.
Girish said that Artificial Intelligence (AI) cameras will be used to feed video snippets to the video lab for analysis and performance enhancement.
A country-wide scouting program had been conducted and 2416 boys had been selected. Out of them, the top 100 had been invited to Chennai for a 7-day rigorous camp and 50 have been shortlisted. Those 50 boys will form the academy’s first batch.
Abhishek Yadav, former AIFF Deputy General Secretary and former captain of the Indian football team, is the club CEO. Shanmugam Venkatesh, former captain & former assistant coach of the Indian football team and current East Bengal FC assistant coach, is the club’s Technical Director of Football. Dr. C.N. Narayana is the Director of Education & Life Skills at the academy.