Sports Football 18 Jul 2018 Future Ronaldos! Boc ...

Future Ronaldos! Boca, catching them young

Published Jul 18, 2018, 12:49 am IST
Updated Jul 18, 2018, 12:49 am IST
Young guns sweating it out at Boca Juniors Football School, Bengaluru.
 Young guns sweating it out at Boca Juniors Football School, Bengaluru.

Bengaluru: Every child wishes to see his/her country represented at a global stage as big as the FIFA World Cup. Unfortunately, India is yet to attain this feat, unlike fellow Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea.

Now the question is why this is the case? Sunanda Das, a football fanatic from West Bengal, is on a mission to change this sorry state of affairs. A business leader for more than 27 years with the experience heading multiple multi-national corporations, Mr Das has moved out of the corporate world to pursue his passion for football that he harboured since he was a child playing football on the streets of West Bengal and watching legendary teams like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal FC.

Now, he has set up a modern football facility on the suburbs of Bengaluru at the Padukone-Dravid Academy – Boca Juniors Football Academy India, accredited by Boca Juniors, an Argentine professional football club based in Buenos Aires, as well as AIFF (All India Football Federation).

The academy has state-of-the-art facilities and qualified coaches aimed at grooming future footballers from the tender age of 6. Apart from strengthening their psychological and nutritional aspects, the academy makes kids learn the finer, technical aspects of the game.

The coaching staff is led by former professional footballer Michael Leonard, a highly experienced UEFA ‘A’ Licensed coach in both outfield and goalkeeping. He has coached at the international level in both the men’s and women’s game with a proven record of recruiting and developing young football talents. With a football career spanning over 25 years, the Englishman has worked around the world, in Asia, Middle East, Oceania, USA and Europe, and among different cultures.

A team of talent-spotters scouts for talented children across all states and strata of society, and provided selected children an excellence programme and full scholarship that takes care of their education and food. In the case of underprivileged children, even accommodation is provided. Interested students can walk into any of the eight centres in Bengaluru to undergo a two-day trial, at the end of which their admission into the academy will be announced.

The Excellence Program at the academy selects 40 out of over 400 students from under-13 and under-15 category, focusing on advanced training sessions, match-practice on a full-sized pitch (over 40 games a year) as well as provides a bridge to students aspiring to turn professional at the international level. Individual progress is monitored via video analysis to help the students gain a better understanding of their game.

“The lack of exposure to football in the country is because of shortage of such facilities. If more facilities like these are developed all over the country or even all across Bengaluru, the country will have the potential to gain recognition in the sport as well nurture young talent, who could even make it to an international club,” said Michael Leonard.

He felt that the potential that an 11-year-old has in India is on par with a European child, playing with better facilities. But the mentality to grasp the game changes when the child reaches 15, because of the lack of exposure in India and the pressure to perform in academics, he said. Mr Leonard said that if more Indian parents are open to the prospect of professional coaching under a structured programme, it will help nurture talented footballers here.

“The academy helps me understand the game in terms of tactics, diet, and even fitness level that one should have,” said Joel Thomas, one of the academy’s brightest prospects. The 12-year-old idolises Portuguese icon Cristiano Ronaldo and dreams of playing for Real Madrid. The youngster has already had the experience of playing a full-fledged tournament. The midfielder has been with the academy for three years and intends to continue there.

There is a vast potential for growth of football in the country. With an increase in such facilities, one can see many footballers playing at professional level.



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