Before the coronavirus pandemic put paid to the hopes of continuing the Sub-Junior (Under-13) and Junior (Under-15) leagues, teenagers from various clubs, belonging to the Chennai Zone, fought hammer and tongs for every ball.
A total of seven clubs – Chennaiyin FC, Great Goals, FC Madras, Aazura Football Academy, Chennai City FC, Football Plus PSA and Raman Vijayan Soccer School – make up the Chennai Zone in the Under-13 and Under-15 leagues. Ivor, a UEFA A License coach who has worked with renowned names such as Roberto Carlos (Brazil) and Marco Materazzi (Italy), observed that there is massive potential in the city. “When I came down, there was so much interest (among the kids). A lot of children, between the age of five and eight, were a part of the academies. They were really passionate about getting involved in the game. If we develop them the right way, we will start to bear fruits soon,” added Ivor, who has had coaching stints in England, France, Italy, Germany and the USA. Among the current crop of senior players from Tamil Nadu, only a handful ply their trade in the country’s top division – the Indian Super League (ISL). However, with Ivor hailing the approach of budding footballers and coaches, one can expect the number to increase a few years down the lane.
“Grassroots football is a long-term project; it is not like a league which runs for five months. It is important for the players to have fun. During my time in Chennai, I went to about five clubs and trained their coaches. I told them to have as much fun as the players. Only this combination will help produce cracking players for the country,” he explained.
During the interaction, Ivor also touched upon gender discrimination in football, which has been prevailing for ages. “It is important we realise women play the beautiful game as good as men. I watched the Women’s World Cup (in 2019) and I loved it. A good footballer is a good footballer (irrespective of the gender) and we should recognise that.”