Monday broke the news that the All India Football Federation (AIFF) had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Odisha Sports Development and Promotion Company (OSDPC).
The MoU will see Odisha become AIFF’s High Performance Centre with developmental Indian Arrows side getting a permanent base for the near future in Bhubaneswar. The coastal state will also become the home for India’s U15 outfit and allows it to host national team camps across all age groups. AIFF expects to set up a residential academy in the state for women as well, which will be the first of its kind in the country.
While the MoU ties in with the Odisha Government’s recent spree of initiatives to transform Bhubaneswar into a premier sporting hub for India, for the AIFF, it represents a significant facility. The infrastructural commitment from the coastal state towards the entire project is substantial while the expanse is significant in its own regard too.
The AIFF gets to conduct its national team camps across all age groups at the world-class facilities on offer at the Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar. The multi-purpose stadium complex has received a swanky makeover as it gets ready to host the International Hockey Federation (IHF) Men’s World Cup from November 28.
The deal will allow the national teams undergoing camps at Bhubaneswar to make use of associated facilities like the swimming pool, gymnasiums, AV/yoga rooms, cafeteria, etc. at the stadium complex. Lodging & boarding will be available for non-Odisha teams invited by AIFF for practice matches.
The Indian Arrows gets a more stable home after having to oscillate between New Delhi and Goa in the last season of the I-League.
With the High Performance Centre, the process of training and performance measurements for the players across various age groups of the national teams will be streamlined which will allow for a more seamless transfer of knowledge.
A regular interaction between the technical staff of the various age group teams will be a welcome move and can only help the national team in the long run.
AIFF President Praful Patel had las year outlined the body’s ambitions to set up a National Centre of Excellence in the country.
“We should have a permanent facility for everything – from physical training to swimming room to classrooms to mental conditioning. We are in talks and I don’t want to go beyond that at this point.”
With the High Performance Centre, the governing body will be able to fulfil many of those desired objectives.
A national-level high performance centre model is one which has been adopted by many successful FAs (Football Associations) all over the world with England’s St. George’s Park being a prime example. It is an approach which was evidently needed in Indian football too and as such, credit needs to be given to Patel, AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das and Director of National Teams Abhishek Yadav.
Kushal Das welcomed the support of the Government of Odisha by calling it an “unprecedented initiative” by a State government.
Abhishek Yadav said, “The stance of the Odisha government is extremely encouraging and positive. Not only camps, the Department of Sports has also indicated eagerness to hold competitions in Odisha to help our teams.”
The MoU is a win-win for both parties. For Odisha, it is another addition of setting up world-class infrastructure for multiple sports discipline while for the AIFF, it brings a much desired High Performance Centre.
It will be interesting to see if the latest move can pay big dividends for Indian football in the coming future.