It was close to two hours after the launch of Sporting Clube de Goa’s football academy at the Don Bosco ground in the city, and as the guests were lured on to the ground for a friendly tie-breaker competition, Scott O’Donnel, technical director (academies) of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), helped himself with a walk on the field.
He kept smiling to himself and minutes later when he spoke with The Times of India, made his appreciation known.
“This has to be the way forward. I know a couple of clubs already have their academies; Pune FC for example, but this is a great initiative by Peter (Vaz). I was surprised to see the quality of the field. (India coach) Wim (Koevermans) had told me about it but I did not expect it to be so good,” said O’Donnel.
The AIFF technical director (academies) was also pleased that six of the first-team players had come up through the youth rank and said this was what the clubs ought to be doing.
“If you can get the philosophy going and work through the ranks, it makes it easy for the coach. If you have a good youth system, you don’t have to buy (players). This is the way forward and hopefully other clubs will follow,” he said.
“The AIFF has started a grassroot programme. We started with a pilot programme in Mizoram and states like Manipur, Maharashtra and Goa will be covered next. Once that happens, hopefully, more boys and girls will start playing football. There are not too many opportunities for kids to play regular football (in India),” said O’Donnel, adding that Goa is an exception.
Goa is home to two AIFF academies at the moment — the Goa Regional Academy (boys born in 2000) and Goa Elite Academy (boys born in 1995-96) — and at least one academy looks to be moved out of the state.
“We are still in discussion for a permanent venue for the elite academy. The long term plan is to have all facilities at one venue,” said O’Donnel.
The elite academy lads stay at the AIFF training centre at Fatorda but have to constantly hunt and travel for training grounds. The team trains at the Chowgule ground in Margao during the monsoon and the Cuncolim ground, both of which are away from the training centre.