Boca Juniors Football School impart the Latin American style of football to youngsters in India

Boca Juniors Football School India begs to be different from the ‘fly-by-night’ football academies which have been thronging the country. If one may recollect, many famed clubs from UK and Europe have been pitching tents at various cities in India in the garb of producing talented players and taking a handful of them to their base, only to then forget all about the players and the entire endeavour.

Club Athletico Boca Juniors — the famed Argentine Club side — are here to impart the Latin American style of football to youngsters in India. “Having enjoyed a stint in India earlier with the FC Barcelona football academy, I decided to take up this role as the Technical Director of the Boca Juniors Football School India,” says Darren Whiltshire, the 31-year-old Londoner who has been involved with football development programmes in countries like South Africa, Peru and Morocco.

Darren, a midfielder who moved to the stopper’s role during his playing days, is a qualified FA coach. He took to a career in coaching and as an analyst following a serious injury to his heel when he was only 25. In Boca Juniors Football School, while the training sessions are fun-filled, the tactical and technical skills being imparted stresses on the values which make an individual complete. “Football is played in the head, more than by foot” — is one catch phrase that a child is taught in the school, which is being conducted at the ITPL (Sarjapur) grounds for two hours in the morning on Tuesdays and two hours in the evenings on Fridays at Sarjapur. Nearly 159 boys in the age group of eight to 17 years train at the facility.

“Is four hours a week sufficient? I agree that the more they practice, the better it is for them. But, first and foremost, we don’t want to make it monotonous. We want the boys to feel the ball and be passionate about the game,” says Darren. “Teamwork, discipline, perseverance and goal setting are the core values that Boca Juniors Football School India imparts to the students as part of its football education.”

“To stimulate and not instruct; train youngsters to play with the spirit of good sportsmanship; respect the referees, opponents and most

Importantly, the team members; provide professionally organised and structured training programme to learn new skills; to maximise potential — these are the key factors that the football school intends to inculcate.”

Currently, the centre at Bangalore is operational, while new ones in Bhopal, Indore and Mumbai indicates that Boca Juniors intends to expand in the near future. Boca Juniors conducted a ‘talent hunt’ at its centre recently, and the huge turnout of children were put through varied screening processes which tested their speed, endurance, stamina, ball control, passing, shooting, defending and team play. “The turnout and the potential on view was very exciting,” Darren comments.

“We intend to give exposure trips to our mid-level players in May with visits to Goa and other places,” he says, and promises to send at least four players to the Club Athletico Boca Juniors team from the current lot in the next three years. “There is such a huge talent base here… It will not be long before Indian players make a mark at the professional league internationally,” he adds.