The youngsters who were to train at the FIFA Academy at Bangalore are currently at the academies in Mumbai and Kolkata....It was a revelation for India when FIFA announced that they would be setting up their academies in different Indian cities to promote more grassroot development in the country. However the lack of seriousness with which the officials here have taken the initiative is something that calls into question whether we are really interested in taking the game forward.
It was learnt that 20 youngsters who were shortlisted to train at the FIFA Academy in Bangalore are now forced to train at the academies in Navi Mumbai and Kolkata which were inaugurated in 2012.
"We have been told that the facility in Bangalore will be ready by April. Till then the boys will continue their training at the other two centres. While one half is training at the centre in Navi Mumbai, the others are in Pailan," Scott O'Donell, FIFA's Technical Director of Regional Academies in India, told The Times of India.
The Bangalore centre is one of eight centres planned for India in 2012-13 with financial support from FIFA to the tune of $500,000 under its Goal programme. The foundation stone for the academy was laid by former Karnataka Chief Minister B.S Yeddyurappa in November 2009. It was expected to be operational in 12-to-14 months.
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O'Donell revealed that most of the selections for the academies happened at the All India Football Federation (AIFF) festival held at Kalyani in West Bengal last year. The 45-year old also stated that he could not recall any open trials being conducted for youngsters. Out of the 9 to 10 Bangalore Academy boys training in Mumbai only one, S Kiran, hails from Karnataka. The attacking midfielder represented India in the Under-14 tournaments in Japan and Nepal.
O'Donell however offered a ray of hope for the Bangalore's footballers to entertain thoughts about being selected to train at the Bangalore academy.
"We have deliberately not filled up all vacancies though the centre can accommodate a maximum of 30 players. If any youngster is recommended for the academy, he will get to train with the boys for one or two days and if the coach finds him good he will be selected," O'Donell said.
"The target groups of the academies are children born after 1997-98 as the AIFF aims to build the core group of the team for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup which India is likely to host. The boys in Bangalore and Kolkata will be 1998 born while the trainees in Mumbai will be 1997 born," the FIFA official added.
The Navi Mumbai centre was the first to get operational in May last year followed by the Pailan academy which became functional in October. Plans are also in the final stages to set up of an elite academy which will come up in Noida. The centre will be home to last year's national U-16 squad.
"Besides top-class coaching during the two-year stint, the trainees will also get to do their schooling. Education is an important part of the programme. While those trainees who are good in academics will get to join regular schools, the others will get the chance to study through the Open school system," O'Donell said.
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