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Ministry to form 5 zonal talent hunt committees in ambitious plan to qualify for FIFA World Cup

Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Monday said the federal government is using on “mainstay” soccer to make India a sporting powerhouse and introduced the formation of 5 zonal committees to hunt talent throughout the nation. Rijiju said the talent hunt initiative, to be funded by the Sports Authority of India under the Khelo India Programme in partnership with the All India Football Federation, would be the “most aggressive exercise” ever achieved. The committees shall be shaped in the following few months.

“We will form five talent scouting committees in the next few months, one for each zone — north, south, east, west and northeast — under Khelo India Programme of SAI in partnership with AIFF,” Rijiju said throughout a digital programme organised by Football Delhi to mark the 36th birthday of India captain Sunil Chhetri.

“We cannot go with the usual approach, we have to go deeper in a professional way. It will be the most aggressive exercise we had ever done. We have to find out talented children below 12 years from every nook and corner of the country whether it is northeast, the tribal areas of central India, coastal areas, south or north,” he added.

He said the talent hunt train was conceptualised with an goal for India to find a way to qualify for the World Cup and the Olympics in the following 10-15 years. “We have to start now with children below 12 if we want to qualify for Olympics and World Cup in 10-15 years. I am confident that we can do this. In the government’s plan to make India a sporting powerhouse, football will have to be the mainstay. It cannot be left behind, it’s the world’s most popular game.

“We will pick people who know football like the former players. Of course, the AIFF will guide us. Moreover, this government effort will be over and above those whatever effort being already done and is doing by the AIFF.”

Rijiju said the ministry was additionally fascinated about giving monetary help to state governments and the federation to organise native leagues to give the platform for talent scouting on the grassroot — panchayat and municipality — degree.

AIFF president Praful Patel, who additionally took half in the digital programme, said a talent scouting programme which started earlier than India hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017, is still persevering with however welcomed the minister’s plan for a “comprehensive” scheme. “A more aggressive and comprehensive programme right to the last village of the country with SAI’s financial support is welcome. I am very happy to hear this from the minister,” he said.

Patel additionally made a suggestion to Rijiju to make no less than one SAI Centre in every zone a dominant soccer facility. “You may not make all SAI centres football facilities but one in each zone can be mainly football facility. You can have other sports also but that facility should have all aspects that football needs like training infrastructure, mental conditioning etc.”

Chhetri, on his half, described his birthday because the best one with the minister making a far-reaching announcement which, he said, might lead to a “monumental” change in Indian soccer. “Talent identification and right coaching is the most crucial thing. If we can identify all the talented children of 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years of age and give them right coaching, we will go miles and the change will be monumental,” he said.

“We have not tapped the entire talent pool in this country. Since we have not searched the whole of the country, the idea that India is yet to arrive is wrong.” Asian Football Confederation (AFC) basic secretary Dato’ Windsor John, nonetheless, cautioned towards sending improper folks as scouts in the talent hunt programme.

“Don’t send wrong players to scout young talent. Involve good coaches, good people. The scouts will have to have football skill-sets, the instincts. You should not be selecting wrong children and find that out after a few years. The most crucial thing is you should not select wrong players.” PTI PDS PDS AH AH

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