Aizawl, July 9: Mizoram, which has benefited from Fifa’s grassroots football development course in the last two years, has set its sights on the FIFA under-17 World Cup, to be held in India in 2017, to acquire berths for state youngsters in the Indian squad.
The course, inaugurated by Fifa representative Scott O’Donell in October 2012, aims at introducing young aspirants in the age group of six to 12 years to the game of football and is under way across the eight district headquarters.
“Though the programme has taken place in some African countries, this is the first time in India,” said Lalnghinglova Hmar, secretary of Mizoram Football Association.
“The training is crucial in view of the FIFA under-17 football World Cup to be held in India in 2017. We are hoping that Mizo boys will play for India in this event,” he said.
In Aizawl alone, nearly 200 boys are attending the training on the artificial turf at Assam Rifles ground in the afternoons. The programme targets boys and girls aged 6-12 years through school, community and club initiatives. The Mizoram association has been giving them professional training with Indian and foreign coaches and organising tournaments at regular intervals.
The association hopes that the Fifa initiative, along with the state sports department’s Catch Them Young policy, will instil a stronger spirit of football among the young boys and nurture their talents at the right age.
Football has emerged as one of the most promising professions for Mizo boys who are naturally talented footballers. “With already more than 200 Mizo footballers playing in Indian clubs and armed forces, many young kids are now dreaming of becoming professional footballers,” Hmar said.
The state’s apex football association is indebted to the Mizoram government, particularly the sports minister Zodintluanga, who has laid world class artificial turf on four grounds, two in Aizawl, and one each in Lunglei and Champhai.
The state government has spent about Rs 4 crore on every turf.
“If without proper infrastructure and basic training Mizo footballers can reach this level, they are sure to dominate Indian football with the basic requirements coming up,” sports minister Zodintluanga said.