Lamenting the lack of quality youth development programmes at most I-League clubs, All India Football Federation technical director Robert Baan urged club owners to look beyond their aim of achieving immediate success.
Speaking at the ‘Goal 2013’ convention on business of Indian football here, Baan also claimed the country needed more football stars to raise the popularity of the sport.
“India needs icons. We don’t have any yet,” puts the Dutchman succinctly.
Further, Baan noted, the state football associations failed to function efficiently as they were hamstrung by paucity of funds and manpower.
Hence there was a great need for sponsors to invest in football, especially in grassroots programmes.
However, the Dutchman believed the scenario was not entirely grim.
A recent pilot project for junior players in Mizoram was a “giant success” as it saw the participation of 500 children. AIFF’s first regional academy was launched last May in Navi Mumbai and if not for some unfortunate delays, a few more would have been in operation by now.
“FIFA assisted in the construction of a facility in Sikkim but there is no field there,” said Baan.
The 69-year-old also criticised state associations which fielded over-aged players at the AIFF National Football Festival in November last.
Scott O’Donell, AIFF Head of Academies, brought this issue into greater focus later in the day.
“Eight out of the participating 25 states were banned from the tournament for including over-aged players. One team fielded a 16-year-old in the under-13 category,” said the Australian.
O’Donell was unable to match his target of selecting 60 players from the under-12 and under-13 trials at the Festival in Kalyani due to the low technical ability of the competitors there and eventually settled for a bunch of 49, 22 from the former bracket and the rest from the latter.
The 45-year-old also remarked that the AIFF had to kick-start its grassroots programme as the I-League clubs had failed to offer similar opportunities for young players.