BY ANSELM NORONHA Follow @apnoronha on twitter
Since taking charge from November 2011, the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) Director of Academies, Scott O'Donell highlighted some of the positives that he and his team have achieved.
"It's difficult to say that there has been an improvement since I've been here, but we're starting grassroots programs now. We started our pilot project in Mizoram in November last year, and we're starting more in Manipur, Maharashtra and Goa," he informed.
"At that moment there are not that many opportunities to keep playing regularly. Goa is an exception, I think," O'Donell added.
The former national team coach of Cambodia also stressed on the overage infringement issue which last took place at the Kalyani football festival earlier this year. He mentioned that a successful implementation of the grassroots program would help nullify the problem of overage players.
"The base of our pyramid is the grassroots program. If we can get grassroots going all over the countries, then we get more boys and girls playing football. It’s just about having fun," he explained.
"We're making use of the grassroots programs to one - identify talent, players for the future and secondly, to register and get a database of players so we can confirm their age. So when it comes to national championships, we're not going to have the fiasco we had so many players who were overage."
|Big task ahead for India U-19|
The India Colts will be taking on the likes of Uzbekistan, Qatar, Turkmenistan and Nepal among their Group A rivals of the AFC U-19 Championship later this year.
"They (elite academy boys) are in China at the moment and preparing for the AFC U-19 Championship in Qatar in October," O'Donell gave an update on the boys who are training under the guardianship of Colin Toal.
O'Donell also suggested that there might be a change in venue for the elite academy from Goa to elsewhere in the country where the players will have all facilities in the same premises.
"We're still in discussions with a few parties regarding a permanent venue for the elite academy, but they're still ongoing. The long term plan is to get a venue to have all facilities. The ideal thing for our elite academy is to have everything at the same premises," he stated.
India beat Nepal to claim the U-16 SAFF Championship crown last month and the Australian only had good things to say about the performance of the youngsters despite the adverse playing conditions.
"[I am] very pleased, but I only saw bits and pieces. I had spoken to the coaches. It's a great thing for the players. Good confidence boost to the players, but the conditions weren't great though. Also the weather was terrible, but it's a good boost for the players," he said.
|Training towards success|
"The performance was very pleasing, but that's just the start. We're looking towards the long-term and not just immediate success. But obviously when you're going for a tournament, you want to win."
The Australian then shifted his focus on the ongoing development of boys at various centres and believes that things can only get better from here on.
"At Pailan [the academy based out of Kolkata), I try to get down there (Kolkata) every month and the coaching staff are doing an excellent job. The players are so committed. Even in the warm-ups, sometimes you have got to tell them to slow down, because they're so enthusiastic and that's what you want.
"The boys in Goa – who are our U-14 academy boys - that's the age group for the U-17 World Cup in 2017. So we'll keep our fingers crossed until we get there and that's another challenge. A good challenge, so we keep ourselves positive," O'Donell signed off, optimistic of India's participation in the esteemed youth competition.
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