The reflection of India's longest running football development programme is visible in the robust performance of Manipur, which has kept an unbeaten record intact to reach the final of the 65th senior National championship for the Santosh Trophy here.

Carrying on the benefits of the scientific development visualised in the Asian Football Confederation's ‘Vision India' project, the North-East giant is fast emerging a power-centre in the country's football hierarchy.

Project Manipur is one of the more successful programmes of the Vision India initiative, which comes under the umbrella of the AFC's Vision Asia scheme aiming to raise the standard of football at all levels in the continent.

Covering entire state

Having been in force for almost five years now, the development initiative now covers the whole of the state nourishing a big pool of talent under the care of qualified coaches.

“The Vision India project helped in creating a bigger pool of talent and gave them a place to show their skills by launching the Manipur State League,” said S. Ekendra Singh, the Manipur coach.

Harnessing talent

Singh, who is one of the important functionaries of this project being an AFC Instructor, said that the 10-team State league was doing well in harnessing talent from different districts.

Insisting on the pioneering effort of formulating a database to monitor the progress of the players in the programme, Singh said that the AMFA had made the youth development a continuous process running four training sessions a year for a group 100 players in every district. “We have four coaches who hold AFC ‘A' licences in the state overseeing the development programmes all through the year,” he said.

Having attained the first stage of development at the grass-root level, Singh said the next step would be to strengthen the State league, which has only amateur clubs running on the AFC funding.

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