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Football veteran lauds TFA efforts

Former footballer Jamshid Nassiri, whose classy headers are still remembered by Calcutta soccer fans, said on Tuesday that more cradles like Tata Football Academy (TFA) could play a major role in improving India’s performance at the Asian level.

The 55-year-old Iranian, who was in the steel city to inaugurate the Jamshedpur Sporting Association soccer league, said that if four academies like TFA came up across the country, India could be among the top ten Asian teams in as many years.

“We have infrastructure, but it is not utilised properly. There is plenty of talent in India but a lot needs to be done at the grassroots. Among the cradles in the country, but TFA is the best by far. More such soccer schools should come up across India and you will see the results in the next 10 years,” said Jamshid, who has played as a striker with clubs like East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting.

The veteran, who lives in Calcutta with wife Susan, is currently a football advisor with Highlife Sports Management Company, which promotes budding players.

“The All Indian Football Federation has to launch an initiative by charting out a scheme to channelise development of players in the 8-10 age group. For example, Nepal has four soccer cradles run by the apex soccer body,” he said.

Jamshed lauded TFA for its efforts to groom young talent. “TFA is doing an excellent job by sending its cadets offshore for exposure. The cradle continues to send consistent performers to the national football team,” he added.

In 2007, Highlife Sports Management Company had tied up with Tata Tea for conducting Arsenal soccer stars training camp in Calcutta. After the partnership ended in 2012, the sports firm joined hands with IFB to start a programme in association with Argentina club Boca Juniors.

Shedding light on the training programme, Jamshid, who is an AFC B licence coach, said it was spread across eight cities in India. “We conduct tournaments for school and college-going boys. I tour the cities to spot fresh talent. Two-three boys are selected from each city. They then attend an intensive training camp by mentors of Boca Juniors in Goa. The top 16 performers will be picked for a trip to Boca Juniors Academy in Buenos Aires in the first week of September,” he added.

Jamshid also cited the example of TFA boy Biswajit Sardar to show how tie-ups with overseas clubs help promote talent.

“Tournaments held as part of such programmes inspire young players. Biswajit Sardar, who graduated from TFA this year, was a product of our tie-up with Tata Tea. The young defender is now a part of India Under-19 squad,” Jamshid said.