It was a special occasion, a very special one indeed. Overlooking the blue Arabian Sea in Worli, Friday (May 11) witnessed history – the launch of the first ever AIFF Regional Academy. Mr. Praful Patel, President, All India Football Federation and Ms. Edith Schippers, Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport of The Netherlands, were part of the launch.
|Mr. Praful Patel presents the AIFF Regional Academy Exchange Flag to Ms. Edith Schippers, Minister for Sports, The Netherlands
The launch kicked-off the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations of the All India Football Federation. “It’s the beginning of an era in the field of sports, especially football,” Mr. Patel said. “I also look forward to the association, partnership and encouragement of Dutch football,” he added. “It’s imperative to have good partners to take the sport forward.”
The first AIFF Regional Academy in collaboration with FIFA has already kicked-off at the Father Agnel School premises in Navi Mumbai where twenty U-20 boys are presently training under Australian Head Coach Mr. Arthur Papas.
“This is the first of the AIFF Regional Academy. More will follow suit,” Mr. Patel declared. Ms. Schippers expected football in India to reach the highest level soon. “India’s ambition of hosting the U-17 World Cup is a challenging one. If India win the bid to host the Championship, it would create the right sporting atmosphere and infrastructure which would in turn take Indian football to a higher level.”
Her humour was very much appreciated when she went on to state: “I hope both The Netherlands and India meet each other in the U-17 World Cup and may the better team win.” Ms. Schippers was also presented the AIFF Regional Academy Launch Flag by Mr. Patel. Mr. Kushal Das, General Secretary, All India Football Federation, Mr. Rob Baan, Technical Director, AIFF, Father Saturnino Almeida, Managing Director, Father Agnel Schools and representative from Orange Sports Forum, the Netherlands, the Developmental Partners of AIFF were also present on the dais.
“All India Football Federation stays responsible for the development of football in the country. Mr. Rob Baan has been travelling to every nook and corner of the country in the last six months to spot footballers for the Academies. I stay confident, we will be able to scout the best talent of the country,” Mr. Patel opined.
“Very soon every state would be having a Technical Director, a Chief Scout Officer and a Development Officer,” Mr. Baan, sitting next, informed.
“We need to be ambitious,” the AIFF President commented. “We have bid for the U-17 World Cup to be hosted in India in 2017. If we get the right to host it, we need to develop players for the same. At the same time, we need to stay strict and prevent age-fraud.”
Speaking about the partnership with AIFF, Ms. Schippers commented the “Government of The Netherlands is very active in getting sports in the lifestyle of the people of the country.” The 20 Academy boys along with the Academy training staff were also part of the occasion.