Mission Football launched

The Meghalaya government launched a Rs 560-crore initiative, Mission Football, here today with the aim of developing the sport at the grassroots level as well as its infrastructure over the next five years.

By Keshav Pariat in Shilong
  • Published 23.07.17
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Students perform at the launch in Shillong on Saturday. Picture by UB Photos

Shillong, July 22: The Meghalaya government launched a Rs 560-crore initiative, Mission Football, here today with the aim of developing the sport at the grassroots level as well as its infrastructure over the next five years.

The mission was inaugurated by chief minister Mukul Sangma. Several of his cabinet colleagues and senior civil servants were present.

The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium was packed with people eager to witness the event, which also featured a cultural programme and a football match between North East XI and Rest of India XI. However, Mukul received a hostile reception from sections of the crowd, who booed him as he was introduced. But brushing it aside, he said, "Meghalaya is connected to the rest of the world through its love of football, a sport which attracts people from all walks of life and all age groups."

Understanding this, the state government has initiated the mission, whose aim is to develop 1,400 playgrounds in all 11 districts, eight mini-stadiums at the subdivisional level and full-fledged football stadiums in seven districts. An amount of Rs 1.5 crore will be invested in each mini-stadium and Rs 5 crore in each of the larger ones.

Ten grassroots centres will also be set up in each district and each centre will have two coaches to cater to at least 60 children. The government aims to have available more than 1,500 coaches and 300 referees trained according to Fifa and AFC norms. The government will give financial support to clubs and associations that show an interest in developing footballers through academies. The state will provide 30 per cent up to a maximum of Rs 75 lakh for this purpose. "With this, Meghalaya will become a powerhouse of football, reflecting our dreams," Mukul said.

Seemingly pleased with the mission's aims, Larsing Ming Sawyan, the managing director of Shillong Lajong who is also the vice-president of AIFF and the president of Meghalaya Football Association, described the day as a "momentous" one.

Naming three of Meghalaya's most prominent current footballers, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Aiborlang Khongjee and Rocus Lamare, Sawyan said these players had to cut their teeth on muddy pitches but there had been "great development of infrastructure in the last seven years" and more was to come.