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Opinion: Clear path needs to be charted out for young footballers

As the third season of the Indian Super League gets under way, it makes one ponder as to how Chennai’s influence and participation has diminished on the country’s football map.

Opinion: Clear path needs to be charted out for young footballers
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A Robin Charles

Chennai

While everyone talks about Chennai being a cricket-crazy city, ‘The beautiful game’ had its enthusiasts too. I remember the Santosh Trophy and the Chennai league being played to house-full stadiums. I have seen stars like Nagesh and S.P. Muthuraman from the tinsel town soak in the atmosphere at the old Nehru Stadium. There was no ISL, no media coverage then. It was pure love for the sport that drew crowds to the grounds. 

It is heartening to note that the interest in  football is surfacing  again, thanks to  ISL. There is a huge interest among the youth to watch and play football. However, to regain the lost glory, there needs to be a strong system in place that can give the players and parents confidence of making a career out of the game. 

In the late 80s and the early 90s, the Madras Football Association  conducted camps for passionate kids and all coaches who managed big teams were overseeing the course. Although there are a lot of private academies, players need some guidance on what the future holds for them.

There are selfless souls, a part of the football fraternity of yesteryear, who regularly conduct camps and tournaments in an attempt to help the upcoming players hog the limelight. But without funds, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

I suggest the need to include a sports based curriculum in schools that can help the students carve a niche for themselves. There are schools like MCC, Vidya Mandir, PSBB, St. Michaels etc which have regular camps but there needs to be a framework where a football lover needs to be sure of  his future, just like how parents are sure of a future with organisations like Infosys, Cognizant etc. 

Nutrition also plays a major role for a player. The diet intake of an athlete and a non-athlete is different. Schools play a major role in helping students understand the importance of a good physique and diet. There is no dearth of funds in the state. The infrastructure is good. While the reach is evident, the quality is in question. We have good licensed coaches, referees and administrators who can play a major role in shaping up careers of young players. They are less used than what they are capable of. 

The writer is a  AFC Pro-licence holder &  former coach of Tamil Nadu

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