Sporting Clube de Goa may have launched their academy in 2013 to commemorate the club’s 15th year but the Goan side had already begun churning talent from long before.
Take Rowllin Borges for instance. He was part of the club's junior teams and won the 2008/09 Taca Goa Under-20 League organised by the Goa Football Association (GFA). Borges finally got his big break in the I-League at Sporting Goa before moving to Indian Super League (ISL) in 2015.
Other than the talent developed through their youth development programme, the club launched quite a few names such as Harmanjot Khabra, Brandon Fernandes, Adil Khan, Cavin Lobo, Joyner Lourenco, Jovel Martins, Pratesh Shirodkar, Kamaljit Singh and Subhasish Bose on the national stage.
Furthermore, since their exit from the I-League in 2016, the club has reached their goal to promote maximum players developed through the Sporting Clube de Goa (SCG) academy to their senior team.
Speaking to Goal, senior club official Angelo Albuquerque revealed that Sporting have adopted another team as their developmental squad. "Our president (Peter Vaz) insisted that Sporting takes over Panjim Footballers FC with a stipulated budget and with the coaches from Sporting itself," he narrated.
It was done in order to give more players a taste of competitive football in the Goa Pro League. Also, since two squads cannot be fielded in the same name, Sporting adopted Panjim Footballers FC as their developmental squad under the leadership of SCG academy head, Shekhar Kerkar, for three years now.
In fact, the current head coach of the Flaming Oranje first team, Savio Vaz, was the former coach at Panjim Footballers for the last three seasons in the GFA First Division League and Goa Pro League.
"Our basic grass-root academy is up to the age group of 12 which is run every alternate day - a one-hour session for various age groups. We mostly start after monsoons. Once they reach the age of 12, in collaboration with Don Bosco's (High School) we have our annual festival (tournament) where iinvite a lot of schools from across Goa," SCG academy head, Shekhar Kerkar explained.
"From there we select and start a batch of around 30 boys for future development which comes under the sub-junior I-League and GFA under-14 team level. Plus, we have our previous players and have annual open trials as well. We try to organise an open trial for under-13, under-15 and under-18 before the commencement of the season."
The club has so far adopted a few schools for their tie-ups, namely St. Xaviers' High School (Moira), St. Britto's High School (Mapusa) and Don Bosco's High School (Panjim) while more schools are in the pipeline from the coming season.
"What we also do is, when the tournament in going on, our coaches also scout for players. We don't just watch club matches but also school matches to see if we can spot some talent," Kerkar continued.
"Basically, our plan is not to take the best. The aim is to take players who have scope to improve in a span of three years. Many times you see that clubs try to get the best players from different clubs and try to get results. Our main philosophy is to develop a player with result as a secondary objective."
"You can't judge anyone in six months and if we leave them, there will also be psychological pressure on the player in thinking that the club has abandoned them. So to avoid that, we keep our players for a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years," Kerkar informed.
With regard to his role, he stated, "My role as academy head is up to under-20 youth level. When I talk about my role, it is basically planning for the grassroots, the training programs for the entire season and also the program for the youth teams wherein I coach one team (Panjim Footballers)."
Kerkar explained why the academy's primary intention is to stick with school tie-ups. "[It is] not to bring just one or two players from a particular school and make the school team suffer because of those players. So the schools have their players and we take them for our regular trainings.
"It's a win-win situation as the club gets players and the schools get equipment in terms of balls, markers, bibs, playing kits, etc. So it's a good understanding as we try to help them organise small tournaments before inviting them for our tournament."
"If you see the result of Panjim Footballers this year, after fighting for relegation in the previous two seasons, the boys have really played well. We were almost headed to finishing sixth or seventh," Kerkar pointed out.
Promising talents like Dattaraj Gaonkar, Lloyd Mascarenhas, Stendly Fernandes and Akshat Hadgaonkar are examples of the academy cadets who have passed through Panjim Footballers before earning their promotion to the Sporting senior team of late.
"We choose around five boys from the academy every year. If you see, most of the club's under-20 and senior team boys today are from the 2014/15 academy lot," Savio Vaz further mentioned.
While Akeraj Martins, Alton Vaz, Brandon Gomes, Clive Miranda and Gautam Dias have also excelled at the senior team after graduating from the academy, some of the under-18 boys also represent Panjim Footballers and Sporting Goa's senior teams.
Contracts and offers
As Albuquerque explains, "Whoever we sign for youth tournaments, we sign for five years. From there, they actually play for only around three years.
"When any player has to play in the under-18 I-League, it is compulsory for him to have a contract which is when we sign the five-year contract with the player. Even for the under-13 or under-16 I-League, we have to sign a contract with the parents of the kids in order to register the players with the federation."
Therefore, all the players are contractually bound with the club up to the under-23 age bracket. Meanwhile, the club is open to transfer bids from other clubs as well.
"We have meetings with our boss (Peter Vaz) to discuss situations in the event any of our player has to be released. We are always happy to release our players if they are going for better prospects than playing at the same level as it also gives credentials to our club for developing quality players," Kerkar observed.