|(From left) SFA general secretary Menla Ethenpa, I-League CEO Sunanda Dhar and AIFF senior vice-president Subrata Dutta watch a second division match at Paljor Stadium in Gangtok. Picture by Prabin Khaling|
NIRMAL MANGAR, TT, Gangtok, April 15: The All India Football Federation will set up a regional academy in Sikkim along with seven other places in the country to train Under-14 players, the best of whom will be picked up for the national youth team.
All the eight regional academies will come up by the end of 2013 and the newly constructed Football House in Gangtok is likely to house the facility in Sikkim.
AIFF senior vice-president Subrata Dutta said the first academy would be opened in Mumbai next month. “The AIFF is planning to start eight regional football academies in the country for U-14 players. They will be ready by 2013. Sikkim will also have an academy. We require playground, educational arrangements and accommodation for the children to set up the academies,” Dutta told The Telegraph.
Dutta said each academy would train 30 students. “We are also setting up two football centres of excellence for U-16 players. The boys who perform well in the regional academies will graduate to the two centres and they will form the core of the national football youth team.”
Dutta was here last week with I-league chief executive officer Sunanda Dhar to watch the ongoing second division matches.
Apart from Mumbai and Sikkim, the academies will be established in Pune, Kalyani (Bengal), New Delhi and Bangalore. The AIFF is yet to decide on the location of the two other academies.
Although no final decision has been reached on the location of the academy in Sikkim, there are indications that it will function from the new Football House in the state capital.
“The regional academy has been our long-awaited dream. It will be a boost for budding players in the state. A few years back, the SFA (Sikkim Football Association) had proposed to start the academy in the newly constructed four-storied football house in Gangtok. The AIFF has given the in-principal approval to set up the academy at the Football House,” said SFA general secretary Menla Ethenpa.
The Football House was set up with funds granted by the Fifa under its Goal project to provide boarding and training facilities to the players.
I-league CEO Dhar said the academy was just the beginning as far as soccer growth in Sikkim was concerned.
“People in Sikkim are passionate about football. We want the game to grow further here so that more Bhaichung Bhutias can be produced. The SFA needs to organise more football development programmes for youths, besides conducting training for referees and coaches. It must also develop infrastructure for the AIFF to organise national and international tournaments in Sikkim,” he said.
Dhar said although the infrastructure at Paljor Stadium was good, the ground had to be developed to hold bigger tournaments.
“I cannot see why I-League matches cannot be held here but for that, United Sikkim has to qualify. The stadium needs to be developed as I-league matches are telecast live and arrangements must be made to erect television cameras. Besides, floodlights are also required.”