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Goal takes you through a tour of the Mahilpur Academy in Punjab that has been one of the feeders of sporting talent for the country....

Continuing its special series on the elite football academies in India, Goal today has a look at one of the oldest and frequent supply line of professionals in India, the Mahilpur Academy in Punjab.

Ali Hassan, the former head coach of the academy, and has been associated with the institute since the time of its inception, gives us the lowdown on everything related to the football school.

Vision

The Mahilpur Football Academy was a part of several academies started off under the guidance of one of the premier athletes to come out of India, Milkha Singh. The idea behind them was to give the right kids, the right training, at the right place, and in Ali Hassan’s words, “To catch the talented youngsters, young.”

Background

As stated above, it was Milkha Singh who came up with the idea of academies in Punjab. In 1975, the ‘Flying Sikh’, as he is fondly referred to by sports enthusiasts, alongwith Mr. B.D Gandhi, masterminded the formation of the Mahilpur Football Academy.

Milkha Singh laid out a strict philosophy of only educational institutes being used as a way to involve kids in sports and helped recruit some of the most qualified coaches around, with great results following. The football school has so far produced over 40 international players, with many more players turning professional, according to Ali Hassan.

Staff

After 36 years with the academy as its head coach, Hassan, who holds a Masters degree in Physical Education, retired last summer. His place was taken by Daljeet Singh, who according to the institute’s former head coach, does not have any modern coaching badges, which might otherwise have been considered the norm elsewhere. He is assisted by Manjeet Singh, while another coach also helps out at the football school.

Shockingly though, there is no physiotherapist or gym trainer employed by the institute.

Scouting

Like many government funded institutes, there is no scope for going out on scouting missions, with young hopefuls, who hope to make a name for themselves in football, lining up at the academy every summer, for a chance to enroll at the football school.


The Academy has given as many as 40 internationals to India


Ali Hassan informs, “In April or May, selections take place, where kids are called. Some old students are retained due to their progress and the new ones replace the old ones (who do not match the required standard). Kids generally from Mahilpur area and near-by areas like Amritsar and Gurdaspur come for trials.”

Facilities

For an academy with three age groups of U-14, U-17 and U-19, the institute is shockingly ill-equipped. The campus possesses just one playing field, with no floodlight facilities.

A gym has been added recently, which is the only modern facility added in recent times, though the hostel has been upgraded, mostly due to the assistance of former students.

Their former head coach though, thinks the ground serves the purpose of the academy and told Goal, “Well the training and conditioning takes place together of all the students, and there is sufficient space for ball-work.”

Exposure and tie-ups

Hassan regrets how in recent times, the players do not get the kind of exposure that they did, under the guidance of Milkha Singh.

He revealed, “In times of Milkha Singh, kids were given travel allowance to go play across the country for exposure and hence great results were given. Now nothing is given, so kids can’t go anywhere, hence the recent results. Unfortunately kids have to bear the brunt.”

He also mentioned that there have been no tie-ups with any foreign academy or club.

In recent times, the institute had 5 trainees in the Punjab team that won the school nationals, that were held in Andaman & Nicobar.

Time-table

The kids in the three age categories are subject to two sessions daily, which, according to Ali Hassan, take place from 5 to 7.30 in the morning, and 5.30 P.M to 8 P.M in the evenings, during the summer.

Alumni Speak

“I was there in the academy for three years. It was a very good experience and I learned a lot. Not only me, but most Punjabi players who have gone on to achieve a lot, player in this academy. All of them are very grateful to Mahilpur for their progress.” - Vasco SC midfielder Asim Hassan

Rating – 5/10

Once a hotbed for talented footballers, as visible from the examples above, the drop is quality has been stark. The supply line of Internationals has become a trickle and with no modern facilities, the hopes of a revival are minimal.

Ali Hassan though, informed that after years of inner politics, the bureaucracy is finally taking interest in the academy, and a facelift might be seen soon.

With JCT shutting down, the most viable stepping stone for these kids has also disappeared from the professional circuit. Hence radical re-structuring is needed to see to it, that the talent that has served India so well over the past few decades, does not get lost.

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