The All India Football Federation (AIFF) and some top Indian Super League (ISL) clubs are on the same page on grassroots development. Representatives of Bengaluru FC, Jamshedpur FC and Odisha FC stressed on the importance of developing young footballers during an online interaction on grassroots development on Saturday.

JFC CEO Mukul Choudhari said his club had been promoting local talent. “The Tata Football Academy (TFA) now hosts baby leagues every weekend and we have had fantastic experiences,” said Choudhari. “We have to focus on the grassroots. In 10 years we can see a difference in Indian football.”

BFC CEO Mandar Tamhane said his club had been working with young kids in areas where other ISL and I-league clubs were not present. “We have to find ways to increase the number of matches because without competition growth is not possible. Also, we must compensate the coaches well so that they focus on players’ development,” he said.

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OFC owner Rohan Sharma said his outfit wanted to “keep developing” young footballers. “We have signed some younger boys. Now we have to develop them and make them play in the first team. That will give the real success story,” said Sharma.

Besides, Odisha FC intends to have a team in the Indian Women’s League (IWL).

Platform needed

CEO of Leagues, AIFF, Sunando Dhar said the Golden Baby Leagues programme made a huge impact in quick time. “The pathway is created. We need to create the platform and give the boys and girls a chance to play,” said Dhar.

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Dhar said the AIFF recognised the need to promote women’s football. “U-17 women’s World Cup next year will put women’s football in the spotlight. We can do much more,” he said.

R. Vineel Krishna, Director, Sports, Odisha Government, said the State was focusing on a legacy programme of the women’s U-17 World Cup. He said the State would work on developing different age group footballers. “We are considering roping in the AIFF as technical partner to run Football Sports Hostels,” he said.