The Lakshya Series: The youth development plan - Part one

After introducing Rob Baan's vision for Indian football in the last editorial, now has a look at his plan for youth development...

On Saturday, 9th March, began a series detailing Rob Baan’s master-plan ‘Lakshya’, which deals with the Dutchman’s vision to make India a nation to be reckoned with, on the football field.

After covering the introduction in the first part, today we have a look at Youth Development.

Almost summarizing what he goes on to explain in the text, in the first two lines itself, Baan quotes Arsene Wenger's famous statement, “At a young age winning is not the most important thing... the important thing is to develop creative and skilled players with good confidence.”

The 68-year old then goes on to stress that how Youth development is the pipeline of talent for the future; and that one cannot think of improving the current status of the country in football without improving its youth development system.

He then goes on to sketch a National Youth Development Plan (NYDP), encapsulating all stakeholders related to youth football in the country – youth players, coaches and referees, schools, students and their parents, academies and football schools as well as the administrators, and links them all up in a set structure.

The National Youth Development Plan...

As you can see from the illustration above, the plan will provide a complete vision of youth football; it will bring structure in youth competitions, coach education for youth coaches and referee education for referees, with the system being monitored annually, to help make amendments which could bring in even better results.

But what age to start scouting for potential talents? Taking the ‘catch them young’ phrase to another level, Baan stresses on the need to tap into talent at the grassroots level from the age of 6 to 12 itself, while further honing talented juniors between the age-group of 12 to 19 years old.

He also recommended that Small Sided Games (SSG) should be played for players in 6 to 12–year old age group while players who are 12 years and older should play 11 v 11 according to the FIFA rules.

The Dutchman also feels that it is necessary to divide players into two categories – Community players, who play only for fun, and Elite players, who are ready to become even better with training and fulfill their potential.

The NYDP, thus, will help to establish a pathway of growth for both players and coaches.

However Baan strikes a note of caution soon enough, as he goes on to state that, "The NYDP will never be successful if we are not able to back it up with the right infrastructure by realizing a National Facility Plan (NFP)."

Baan's Big Plan...

The objective of the NFP will be to develop the support infrastructure for realization of the NYDP. More specifically, the NFP will aim to achieve the following:


• A National Football Training and Development Center (Elite Center) for all our National Teams plus administration staff

• Regional academies in every State for the age groups 12 -19 years

• Football School Centers in every State for the age groups 6-12 years but also:

• Typical football stadiums for each I-League club

• Training facilities for all I-League clubs

• Enough natural grass or artificial pitches for matches and training in every state

• Small sided fields in every part of the city and villages


Last but not the least, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) shall create an implementation team responsible for ground-level execution of the NYDP. This team will consist of State Technical Directors, Development Officers and Scouts who will report directly to the Technical Director of the AIFF. It is worth mentioning that apart from the aforementioned professionals, the NYDP will also look to engage many volunteers for the successful execution of these plans.

And in a bid to further drive home the points emphasized on in this chapter and the introduction, Baan proposes the creation of a ‘National Curriculum’.

This would deal with all the important requirements, that are necessary to develop Indian football, including referee and coach education, the above mentioned youth development, talent identification and football at the grassroots level.

So the question at this stage is, how does one identify talent at this level?

The Proposed Scouting System...

The Dutchman foresees this conundrum, and has produced a readymade and extensive two page form, which judges a player on his skills, as well as physical and mental capabilities, making a job of the scout easier.

As part of the National Talent Identification Program (NTIP), Baan proposes a multi-tiered scouting system connecting all levels of the ‘football pyramid’. He hopes to identify organized tournaments and events at various levels which can then form the basis of talent scouting framework.

He rounds up the discussion with the idea of having a National Database system, which will be created based on information provided by the State Technical Directors.

So now a process has been identified to find talent. But how to nurture it? To find out more about the same, in its next editorial on the series, shall reveal the subsequent part of Baan policy, which would involve the usage of football schools and tournaments to help a youngster realize his potential.


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