BY ANSELM NORONHA Follow @apnoronha on twitter
Months ago, in February, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) Director of Academies, Scott O'Donell was of the opinion that the academies have to be run by the clubs in the country and not the federation.
With Sporting Clube de Goa (SCG) starting an academy of their own, the 46-year-old feels that Indian football is moving in the right direction.
"This has to be the way forward. I know a couple of clubs who have got their academy - Pune FC, I know for one - but this is a great initiative by [SCG chairman] Peter [Vaz]," said O'Donell.
He was particularly impressed with the standard of the training ground and highlighted the importance of having one.
"I was rather surprised to see the quality of the field. [India coach] Wim [Koevermans] had told me it was good, but I didn't expect it to be so good. It's great for [SCG head coach] Oscar [Bruzon] and his players to be able to train on this [ground] everyday. It's great for the club and it's also good for football.
"Facilities is one of the things, because we're trying to coach our elite [academy] players and we need good grounds to do that on. But also the structure in terms of the education and qualification of the coaches is important."
O'Donell has also revealed of the plans of devising an accreditation process for academies in the country, but before which it will also be important to draw a line between soccer schools and academies.
"We're in the process of devising an accreditation scheme for the private academies. So it will come down, once again, to facilities and coaching qualifications, number of players and things like that.
"We've always said and we got to distinguish between academies and soccer schools. Academies, I think, are residential. They are full-time where players train every day. Some of these other academies...and I'm sure that they're doing a good job, but they might only train once or twice a week," he remarked.
The primary agenda of handing out accreditation is to recognize the work done by private or club’s academies and at the same time, bring everyone within one umbrella where the same curriculum is followed.
"We are open to hear out ideas and are quick to learn. There's no secret in football. So if people want to use our curriculum and are willing to work within that, then it's fun. The more people doing it, its better," he observed.
"We're not saying 'this is our secret training'. We're open to work with everyone as long as they're willing to reciprocate and make sure they're doing it the way we want to do it. So that's why the accreditation program and it's going to take a little while to come in, because there are so many schools and academies. But once we get the accreditation program in, we can start monitoring them."
SUBSTANCE OVER STYLE
While at the academies run by the AIFF, it's the 4-3-3 formation that's been endorsed, O'Donell concedes that the style of play is something that would vary from club to club.
He said, "We don't want everyone playing the same style, because then it would be boring. We're encouraging from the youth development level and our academies to play 4-3-3, which we think is the best base to learn from, but we can't say 'you have to play this formation, you have to play that formation' - that's up to the individual club and their philosophy.
"We're just saying that's what we think is best for training our players. We don't want to tell the clubs 'you have got to do this, you got to do that' - that's up to the individual clubs."
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