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Goal takes you through a tour of the SLFC academy in Meghalaya that has been one of the breeders of talent in the north east...

 Anselm Noronha
 FEATURE | India
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Continuing our special series on the elite football academies in India, Goal takes an in-depth look into I-League side Shillong Lajong FC's academy that scouts and grows talent in the north east.

Alison Kharsyntiew, who is the head coach of the academy, provides insights on what are the institutions objectives and how does it function.

Vision

The Shillong Lajong Football Club Academy was set up in 2007 with the sole aim to develop the game at the grassroot level keeping in mind the abundant football talent in the Meghalaya. The academy's aim lies in moulding and shaping the boys into future stars and ultimately paving the way into the senior team.

"If you want good players in future, then you need to have an academy. If you don't have an academy, you cannot grow players," Kharsyntiew remarked.

"Also the significance of having an academy is to feed players into our teams. Instead of buying players for our junior and senior teams, we can use our own [academy] players. So that will help financially as well.

"We have two objectives. First of all, we want these players to play at Shillong Lajong. And secondly, if these players get offers elsewhere, we will allow them to leave and be happy for them."

Background

The academy started for the U-15s with the Bobby Nongbet and Kenneth Khongwar being the coaches.

Alison Kharsyntiew | academy head coach

"Now we have three academies here - Under 14, Under 16 and Under 20," the head coach revealed as the academy grew with the addition of age group teams and now boasts of a roster of more than 80 players from all over the North-East region."

"In the U-20 team we have 35 players, among the U-16 we have 22 players and 20 players in the U-14 category," Kharsyntiew added.

Staff

Kharsyntiew holds an AFC 'C' License and is accompanied by William and Seibor Sana in the training sessions. Head of Youth Development Purtibha Meitei looks after the scouting programmes, while the academy is managed by Pynshai Dann.

The academy also takes advice from Lajong FC's senior team head coach Thangboi Singto.

Scouting

The scouting is mostly done through locally held tournaments around the state and within the north eastern region, with the last being the 5-a-side football competition that Lajong FC had organised in which five players were short-listed for trials.

"Recommendations of players come to us from other [state] associations from the north east. Around 30 players attend the trials every year. They can come for trials anytime and the coaches choose the best," Kharsyntiew told Goal.

Hardy Nongrum | a future prospect

The academy has managed to create football prodigies such as Hardy Nongrum, Shanbor, Redeem Tlang, Yami Longvah, Frolicson Dkhar, Imli Akum Longkumer, Lalrinzuala Khiate, Samuel Shadap, Jacob Lalrawngbawala and Nimdorjee Tamang. Of these talented youngsters, four have made it into the senior I-League team - Jacob, Samuel, Bipin Singh, and Lalrinzuala.

Facilities

The academy hosts its U-20 cadets in a hostel in Rynjha, while another at Laithumkhrah is for the U-14 and U-16 teams. The hostel in Nongrah, which has a with a full-fledged gymnasium, is where most of the 'green team' players stay. Kharsyntiew explained that 'green team' is used for the players who are most likely to play in the I-League or top division football.

"Under 20 players train mostly everyday," the coach talked about the training regime. "For the U-14s, we have a ground at St. Edmunds and the U16s practice at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium."

All players are given a break during examinations with the longest in December. A maximum of a month's lay-off is allowed after any major tournament before the players resume practice and training.

Exposure and achievements

The academy's junior teams have won many accolades, and have made their presence felt in the various competitions and events which were held within the state and the country such as:
  • Inter Milan Youth Tournament (Indian team)
  • Manchester Cup-Winners (All India) Under-15
  • Bayern Munich Youth Cup (Indian team)
  • Tottenham Leapstart Tournament Winners (Under-14 team)
  • Shillong Premier League Under-19 Champions
  • MFPA tournament Winners 2011 (Under-16 team)
Alumni Speak

"I was in the academy from when I was 15 years old and I have learned whatever I need to become a professional footballer today. It was a good experience which has brought me in the Shillong Lajong FC senior I-League team for the last two years. I feel good to make my way in the playing 11 for at least a few matches in the last season." - Samuel Shadap.


Rating – 6/10

With a line of academy products actively contributing to the competitive teams of Shillong Lajong FC, including the senior I-League outfit, the success of the initiative that started half a decade ago has begun bearing fruits in terms of the future line of players.

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