NEW DELHI: “We are planning to have a long jump competition soon. The event does not need much infrastructure,” said the U.S.-based Dr. Francis Saldanha, who has ventured to make his contribution for the development of Indian sports at the grassroot level.

Speaking at a press conference here on Friday, Dr. Saldanha revealed that he had already arranged for a year’s training in football for a 14-year-old boy in Mumbai after seeing his impressive skill on Thursday.

“India has tremendous talent and we are trying to give the children a chance to highlight their potential and get selected for quality training in Europe, U.S., etc. The idea is to create a talent pool from which champions can emerge in the next six to eight years,” said Dr. Saldanha.

Tennis coach Hemanshu Chaturvedi, who has been helping out the NRI in formulating concrete plans, said that attempts would be made to take the idea to schools. “Any school will have an internet connection, and you can shoot the video of a talented player with a mobile camera. This is the best way for everyone to reach for support, without having to spend a lot of time and money in travel,” said Chaturvedi.

After watching the India under-16 team in Uzbekistan, Dr. Saldanha felt that India was about 20 years behind countries like Korea and Iran. He hoped that his attempts to provide quality support in sports like taekwondo and rugby, apart from football, basketball, tennis and swimming, would attract sponsorship support and also inspire NRIs to make a contribution.

“’Cricket is a great example in India, and the other games will flourish if they follow it. We do have a world chess champion and an Olympic champion,” said Dr. Saldanha, as he highlighted the fact that with the right plan and support, talented players could be trained to be champions on the global platform.

“The football camp in Assam, with a family of American coaches, Bob Gray, Carl Gray and Glenn Gray, is going on well. The Assam boys are physically fit and strong. The coaches have already spotted a couple of boys for possible scholarships in American Universities,” he said. — Special Correspondent

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