Tata Trusts to tap football potential in North-East

An initiative that looks to take Indian footballers to professional leagues outside the country, especially in Europe, Tata Trusts and U Dream Football have come together to harness the talent of the young footballers from the North-East.

The programme aims to create 100 grass-roots football academies in Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya, Assam and Nagaland while sending a selection of the talent to train in Germany.   -  k. rajesh

An initiative that looks to take Indian footballers to professional leagues outside the country, especially in Europe, Tata Trusts and U Dream Football have come together to harness the talent of the young footballers from the North-East. This is a step ahead of the developmental programme intiated by Tata Steel through the Tata Football Academy, which so far supplied the bulk of professional footballers in the country.

The ambitious programme aims to create around 100 grass-roots football academies in the North-Eastern States such as Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya, Assam and Nagaland while sending a selection of the best available talent to train in Germany. The residential programme emphasises on keeping the selected players for a period of six years in Germany, where they will pursue academics while bettering their football skills.

“We have based the system on the German model of youth development deriving influences from the Bundesliga Clubs - starting with TSG 1899 Hoffenhiem,” said Biswanath Sinha, Associate Director, Tata Trusts, which is funding the programme devised in collaboration with U Sports, a sports business company based in Mumbai.

We have stepped outside the conventional norms of youth development and involved the different communities from the five North Eastern states to make the effect more sustainable,” says Sinha. “Football is a part of life in the North-East and our effort will be to develop the communities through the sport,” he added.

A group of 15 players went to train in Germany last year with number being raised to 50 this month. “We have a total of 50 players picked up by coaches who came from Germany, ranging in the age group between nine and 15. They will stay in Germany where they will learn football and be exposed to the best of academics so that they acquire multi-lingual skills before getting ready to play in different leagues in Europe,” Sinha said.

“We aim to make this a feeder-system where the boys came back to join the National team and the clubs to enrich the football ecosystem in the country. Having started with North-East, we will gradually include other States such as Kerala, Bengal, Maharashtra and Goa to make this initiative a pan-Indian affair,” said the CEO of U Sports, Supratik Sen.

With greats like Zico and other prominent coaches from Europe and Latin America insisting on having quality Indian players to make the club leagues like the I-League and ISL more vibrant, this initiative seeks to move in that direction.

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