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AIFF academy plans runs into rough weather

AIFF academy plans runs into rough weather

At the start of the New Year Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and group CEO of Bharati Enterprises and Priya Rajan Das Munshi Union Minister and All India Football Federation (AIFF) president signed an MOU, promising a huge investment in football.

AT THE start of the new year when Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and group CEO of Bharati Enterprises and Priya Rajan Das Munshi Minister and All India Football Federation (AIFF) President signed an MOU in the national capital with Mittal’s firm promise of a huge investment in football, the deal was touted as one of the single largest financial activity outside cricket in India.

In Focus But AIFF-Bharati Enterprises plans to set up academy in Goa under the same MOU have run into rough weather. Sponsorship for football globally may be an attractive forum for entrepreneurs, but in cricket crazy India, sponsorship is hard to come by for the game of football struggling as it is to bounce back in the upper echelons of Asian football. And when Bharati Enterprises took the risk to plunge head on in supporting AIFF’s plans of setting up a football academy with a dedicated contribution of Rs.100 crore over a period of ten years the AIFF officials were over the moon. All this happened at the start of the New Year. Three months into the New Year and the initial euphoria surrounding the academy has been caught up in turmoil in the western state of Goa. Yes, the Goa government’s decision to allot land for AIFF to set up the academy in the tourist paradise has not gone well with the local villagers in the municipal town of Cuncolim, a village 13 kilometers from Margao. The citizens from the state are in an agitation mood. Goa and Goans who over the years have been callous and not been vigilant over the sale of land to non-Goans and foreigners have suddenly become active to prevent sale of land and are keen in protecting their lands so they do not pass into hands of non-Goans. The recent regional Plan 2011 and the Special Economic Zone agitations, where government authorities in collusion with builders and business firms sought to sell large chunks of land in the small state was stopped by alert citizens, are fresh in people’s mind and thus Bharati enterprises and AIFF have had to answer a few probing questions from Goans. And the land which has sough to be given by the state government to the academy has been earlier sought to be used for constructing a housing colony, the plan for which was dropped after opposition from the locals four years ago. According to the AIFF plan a world-class football academy will be built in Goa for 100 boys on 1.26 lakh square metres of land in Cuncolim. The villager’s contention is what the benefits for the local residents are going to be from the academy in terms of jobs, facilities and community development. AIFF Secretary Albert Colaco said that the Academy will have residential accommodation for the boys, six natural turfs and an artificial turf; a gymnasium, meeting halls, class rooms, library and other ancillaries. He has also assured that priority would be given to locals in jobs in various categories. Colaco said boys from eight to 18 years would be part of this public-private enterprise. Each group would have 25 players. The AIFF bosses have set 2018 World Cup finals qualifying as a target. The world-class academy is looking up to development models from China, Japan and USA and also trying to replicate models followed by some of the Bundesliga clubs and trying to draw on the expertise from Portugal. The two with whom AIFF has a MOU. On the sponsorship front Mittal, who is also chairman Confederation of Indian Industry, assured that more sponsorship was on its way into football. Football is an area waiting to be tapped but cricket has certainly pushed it into the background. Does the future hold hope? Will the 2018 target of qualifying for the World Cup a distant dream. But one thing is certain, the AIFF Academy plans have been kept on hold till Bharti Foundation make a power-presentation and answer all apprehensions and queries raised by the villagers at the next meeting.

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