Once upon a time, a young lad scored a stellar overhead volley in a match in the North East, and was spied doing so by a scout, which led to the beginning of one of India’s greatest footballing stories. This young lad was none other than Baichung Bhutia, fondly called as ‘God’s gift to Indian Football’, by ex-Indian striker and legend, I.M. Vijayan.
Now, the North East of India is a veritable gold mine of such aspiring footballers and football enthusiasts, eager to follow in the footsteps of their hero, the Sikkimese Sniper, Baichung Bhutia. The question now is; how to develop this veritable gold mine of Footballers? Here we look at this quandary and try to find solutions for the same.
For all their vaunted talent, one of the major reasons why aspiring footballers give up on the sport is because they cannot keep up with both, football, as well as their education. Juggling both becomes even difficult for those coming from the less affluent sections of society, who need every spare penny that they can get to support their family. To that end, providing scholarships to these talented lads which will relieve the burden of fees of their education and training on their families will go a long way towards helping them.
Tactics & Strategy Development Programs
There is a lot more to football beyond just talent. Without a deep understanding of the game and its nuances, talent alone will prove insufficient to succeed on the world stage. Tactical nous and good strategy is needed for sustained success. Imbibing this in the talented players at a young age will help them reach the next level quickly, because on the highest stage of them all, there are no breaks. Continuous improvement is the mantra.
The Seven Sisters of the North East make a region known for their natural splendour and beauty, but in terms of monetarily, it is a far cry from the sprawling concrete jungle that make the Indian metropoles. Providing monthly allowances or a stipend to aid the players there who show promise would be a good start in making them pursue the sport professionally, instead of turning to other jobs to make ends meet.
More Grassroots Academies & Training Facilities
The success of the Baichung Bhutia Football School setup in the North East can be looked at as a blueprint, and similar other academies and training facilities should be set up there. The players there may have an instinctive understanding of the game, and the rigours of daily life and the mountainous terrain may helped keep their body in the best of shape, but there is much more to football than just running and kicking, and talent needs to be nurtured if its complete potential is to be realized, and the aspiring players are to make it to the world stage.
Developing World Class Infrastructure
The world of football has now progressed beyond body conditioning, tactics, and strategies. Now there are full-time dietitians, physiotherapists, masseuses, working day and night to keep the players in top shape and in the best of health. India needs follow suit and do the same.
The North East of India has some splendid football grounds, but sadly, they are lacking in infrastructure. With the global nature of football, it has gone beyond a mere sport and turned into an experience. And it is the fans who add the flavour to it. Having a World Class stadium with top of the line facilities is an important draw for these aficionados of the game, and developing such stadia is important, especially in a place like the North East, where the grounds will also be used for practice and simulating real life matches on a continuous basis, while also being a draw to teams from all over for exhibition games, giving the region, its fans, and the players, much-needed exposure to the global world of football.
Develop this gold mine with care, and we may just find the next footballing phenomenon emerging not from South America, but from the exhilaratingly beautiful North East of India.