The ongoing World Cup in Brazil, which is into its final stages, has gripped the city and the football fraternity has a feeling that the youth have taken to the Beautiful Game in a big way.

“The trend today is of football overtaking cricket and tennis in popularity. Football icons are fashion trendsetters for the current generation,” says A.R. Khaleel, the president of the Karnataka State Football Association (KSFA) and the Chairman of the I-League. He feels this has been the best World Cup ever, considering the goals scored and the performance of the big names.

So, this could be the moment for the city to make the most of the football wave. Former India captain Carlton Chapman, who now runs an academy here, feels this is the time for Bangalore to upgrade its infrastructure and give the game a big boost. This has been echoed by many footballing greats from the city.

“There is no dearth of talent, but promoting and moulding them is the challenge ahead,” Mr. Chapman said. “In the 90s there were more than a dozen players from Bangalore and Karnataka in the bigger I-League clubs outside the State, but today we have just a handful playing for other teams.”

The State association, along with the district association, should look to conduct many events, especially area-wise and across age groups, to identify talent and look to give them long-term training, he says. “We can adopt the Goa formula here to good effect,” he adds.

In Goa, every village conducts tournaments at regular intervals, and senior international players like Bruno Coutinho and Brahmanand Sankhwalkar have been given an important role in developing talent with the formation of the Goa Football Development Council (GFDC).

“The seniors will feel some responsibility and young players, who have only heard and read about those players, would look forward to learning from them,” he says.

Today, Bangalore is short of facilities for football training. There is no ground worthy of hosting a high-level tournament. With the Bangalore Football Stadium being readied for the 2017 FIFA under-17 World Cup, the Sree Kanteerava Stadium is now being considered the home ground of the Bengaluru Football Club and is getting a face-lift ahead of next season. The BFC won the I-League this year.

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Keywords: Avinash Nair

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