Why kids should play football

Soccer player playing on soccer field.Preparing for free kick.  

The 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup has many things riding on it for Indian football: a spurt in awareness and the expectation that the game will increase its fan base and attract talent. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has realised the way forward is to tap young talent and has introduced baby leagues to achieve that goal.

“There is abundant talent waiting to be nurtured. Now is the time to reach out to youngsters through the FIFA World Cup,” says former National coach Anadi Barua, who runs Barua Football Training Centre, an academy to groom young footballers, in Noida.

Parenting in the age of glory

For parents, the dilemma has always been picking between academics and sports for their kids.

Football now offers new avenues. Kids don’t just have to kick a ball around a park. Football offers a decent professional career. “You can play club football and make a good living. Football may fetch you a Government job. You can go on to become a coach or a referee once you retire from active football. The competition can be stiff, but there is something on offer at every step,” observes Tarun Roy, former international player and now coach at Sports Authority of Gujarat, based out of Gandhinagar.

“The right age to introduce your child to football is 6,” he says. “At my academy, I welcome kids when they are 6 and try and make them understand how they can combine the love for football and a possible career as a professional,” adds Roy.

Apart from the AIFF and State associations, there are private academies in the country which also invite youngsters to join the football movement.

As far as facilities (grounds) are concerned, we are lacking in this regard, though the Union Government is looking to invest in creating playfields in search of a young Messi or Ronaldo.

“Football helps you develop as an individual,” notes former FIFA talent search member Shaji Prabhakaran, Delhi.

“We have lagged in this department but I am happy to say that our youth are accepting football as a great team sport. It teaches you camaraderie, and more importantly, makes you accept defeat as part of the process. It teaches you the essence of team work. Individual skills don’t count in this wonderful team game,” he says.

The key, emphasises Barua, lies in learning the early points the right way. “You must send your child to the right academy and make sure it is being run by qualified people, like former players. The coaches at these academies must have official training licences from the AIFF.”

Fitness is everything

“There are certain fitness standards you need to maintain, that come from professional advice at the club level. Regular counselling by football experts (coaches, nutritionists, physios) can guide a talented youngster. Parents must not put pressure on their kids. The coach is the best person to take decisions concerning young talent. Injury management and recovery processes are best left to the coach,” says Barua.

Football is not expensive. Those who go on to wear the national colours don’t come from affluent backgrounds. Think Yousuf Khan, Chuni Goswami, Inder Singh, Peter Thangaraj.

“The playing kit does not cost much. The academies also don’t charge a high fee for coaching. It is a common man’s game with a global appeal. Let your child play football and become a disciplined citizen,” says Barua. The large turnout at venues hosting FIFA under-17 World Cup matches is an indication of the future. It is the best time for children to come onto the field.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 2:40:54 PM |

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