The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A new academy kicks off
- IFA’s initiative begins with 25 trainees and coach Habeeb

Haldia: Some dream of becoming football stars, some others dream of producing them.

The two schools of dreamers came together at the Durgachak Stadium here on Sunday morning as the Indian Football Association’s (IFA) academy formally got off the blocks.

It marked the first step of the state body’s goal of catching them young and nurturing them into a bunch of thoroughbreds. No other state association in the country has ever undertaken such a project.

The academy will run in collaboration with the County Sports Foundation (CSF) — a local body instrumental in promoting sporting activities here. The academy has been named the IFA-CSF Academy.

The role-distinction is clear. The IFA will provide technical support and the CSF will take care of infrastructure-related needs like providing the ground, accommodation for 25 trainees and two coaches. It will also ensure that the boys go to school.

Approximately, Rs 1 lakh will be spent on each boy per annum. Local MP Lakshman Seth is a key man on the organisational front.

The responsibility of grooming the boys has been entrusted to Mohammed Habeeb, who served the Tata Football Academy in Jamshedpur in this very role with distinction. Sujit Chakraborty is his deputy. The academy has started with 25 boys around the age group of 13-14. “They have been selected from a pool of nearly a thousand,” said IFA secretary Subrata Dutta.

Eighteen of the boys are from Bengal, four from Mizoram and three from Manipur. One more from Manipur was selected before being released after medical tests. There are three goalkeepers in the lot. Interestingly, one of these boys — Kalicharan Soren of Haldia — is deaf and mute. “He is a right-back with good power. He was picked purely on merit and not on compassionate grounds,” informed Chakraborty.

Dutta said these boys will be under training for three years and there will be no fresh recruitment till this set completes four years. In the last year, they will play in the first division group A league in Calcutta.

Habeeb seems to be impressed with the game sense of some of the players. “I will request authorities to arrange for exposure trips and like them to take part in some sort of competition after two years.”

Dutta informed that a team consisting of a sports medicine specialist, a general physician, a psychologist and a nutritionist will visit the academy from time to time and their first trip is expected in a week.

The trainees have already undergone a series of tests and their training programme will soon be finalised.

Former players Abdus Sattar, Sahu Mewalal, Pradip Chowdhury and Prasun Banerjee were present at the inauguration function, which was also attended by Commonwealth Games boxing champion Mohammed Ali Qamar.

Emotions were running high and a sense of accomplishment was palpable even though the job had just about got underway, far from finished.

The IFA secretary himself set the ball rolling by saying that he was high on deriving “the joy of creation”. This was certainly premature since some important tasks are still to be completed.

No. 1, the boys have been put up in a temporary residence and a permanent hostel is still some time away. Also, essentials like school, gymnasium and swimming pool are yet to be finalised. No doubt, the IFA-CSF Academy is a great project in principle. Yet, there are loads of examples of great projects losing momentum after a ceremonious start. It’s up to the IFA and the CSF to ensure their academy marks a departure from this dubious tradition.

If they succeed, several dreams of emulating Bhaichung Bhutia will receive a major boost.

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