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Juniors in a spot

New Delhi: India earned the right to host the 2017 Under-17 World Cup in 2013, but the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) Youth Development Programme (YDP) has left a lot to be desired.

The AIFF-Fifa under-16 academy, that was opened in Calcutta with much fanfare, has become non-operational for the past two months, despite the boys winning the SAFF title in Kathmandu in July.

According to sources, the boys did not have a single practice session since October, and all were sent home from the academy.

“We do not have a proper practice ground at the moment. Negotiations are on with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) for permanently using its facilities in Calcutta. Practice can only be resumed after we reach an understanding with SAI,” said an AIFF official.

“It is a terrible waste of precious time,” pointed out a youth coach. “The boys were shaping up extremely well and had a great future. The AIFF should restart the functioning of the academy as soon as possible,” he added.

The trouble started after the sponsors of the academy, who were also housing the AIFF’s under-23 Arrows squad, fell out with the federation over several issues.

Once the AIFF took the decision to disband the Arrows, the sponsors also refused to continue with the under-16 academy and eased the squad out of their premises.

The AIFF officials, however, insist that it is only a temporary setback. “We all regret the loss of time, but once the matter is settled with SAI, the academy would run in full swing,” said a senior functionary.