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Good news for Indian football! Former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger to help with grassroots programmes

Former Arsenal manager and world governing body FIFA's current chief of global football development, Arsene Wenger, will play a role in Indian football's grassroots programmes and talent development.

football Vision 2047 Good news for India Former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger to help with grassroots programmes snt
First Published Jan 7, 2023, 8:24 PM IST

Arsene Wenger, a former manager of Arsenal and the current head of global football development for the world regulatory body FIFA, will participate in grassroots initiatives and talent development for Indian football.

Kalyan Chaubey, the president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), discussed youth development initiatives in India with Wenger and other senior FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) officials during the World Cup in Doha.

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"We have had extensive discussions with the FIFA development team. Arsene Wenger is head of the FIFA Task Force, and they will help us in the grassroots programme. Coaches from Wenger's team would come," Chaubey said after unveiling its 'Vision 2047' roadmap. 

"About the football budget cut, we have got a lot of help from the government and ministry, and we have never been turned down when we requested something. In future, too, we will expect whatever we deserve in terms of help, the government will give us," he added. 

The strategy envisions India becoming a new Asian football powerhouse in the nation's centennial year of independence.

Salient features of 'Vision 2047'

Developed in conjunction with all stakeholders of Indian football, the roadmap has also sought and incorporated inputs from the AFC and FIFA.

The roadmap's main objectives are to establish a strong footballing ecosystem, place India among the top four footballing nations in Asia, and host one of the top leagues there. Six four-year strategy plans make up "Vision 2047," and they have been divided up for careful implementation.

The first of these will look to cover the period till 2026. "With a shared vision and by sharing responsibility, we can implement targeted programmes to address key areas identified in this roadmap and help build capacity for the football ecosystem," Chaubey said. 

He said the aim is to revive "the glory days of Indian football as it was in the 1950s and 60s and becoming a powerhouse of Asian football once again".  

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Making sure gamers operating in the nation have more access to competition and games is one of the roadmap's essential components.

The federation hopes that by 2047, players will be able to participate in at least 55 games each season in various events.

"Transformation will begin at home through a reform of the organisational culture," secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran said, referring to a need for better governance of the game across the country. 

"A restructuring exercise will be carried out to streamline current operations and develop a team which adopts the industry's best practices and is transparent in its dealings. By 2036, the centenary of the federation," Prabhakaran said, adding, "India will be among the top seven countries in Asia, and a strong contender to qualify for the World Cup on merit." 

'Vision 2047' focuses on business and marketing as well

The federation recognises that growth in modern sports requires a business outlook. The federation will dedicate an entire division, 'business and marketing' to develop, cultivate and invite investment and partnerships in Indian football. 

The federation noticed that, compared to its size and population, there is little grassroots participation in the game. In metropolitan regions, there are few facilities and playfields where kids may go outside and play, and there is a significant gender gap in involvement. A lack of unity and concentration among various stakeholders has caused significant financial shortages.

The AIFF's 2026 goal is to deploy village grassroots programmes across 100 villages in India and reach 35 million children through grassroots initiatives. The main grassroots initiative will also try to sign up 1 million players and use 'Football for Schools' to teach football to 25 million students.

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'Vision 2047' plan for Indian women's football

While women's football has gained popularity globally, the organisation acknowledged that India has previously paid it very little attention. Particular solutions are required to help boost involvement and competency throughout the pyramid and strengthen the fragile ecosystem.

Some of the proposed solutions include better adoption of women's football by clubs across different levels, incentivising the role of coaches, referees and match commissioners for women, and providing a minimum salary to women's players. 

By 2026 - the period of the first strategic plan - the federation will ensure the creation of a four-level league table pyramid, the top of which will be occupied by the Indian Women's League (featuring 10 teams), followed by the 2nd Division (8 teams). 

In addition, there will be five zonal leagues with eight teams each. A new women's youth league structure has been proposed, which will see players across different age groups play a minimum of 14 matches. 

The federation will ensure that a minimum of 20 states implement the new women's youth structures by 2027.

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Plan to create three-tier national league pyramid

On the men's side, the current strategic plan will ensure the creation of a three-tier national league pyramid with 40 teams. 

The Indian Super League and I-League will boast of 14 teams each, while the I-League 2nd Division will consist of 12 teams. 

A state championship structure will see city and district leagues feed into the state championships. 

A revamped men's youth league structure will see the local state youth league and elite youth leagues will run simultaneously.

Clubs and academies will participate in both, with the winners of the state youth leagues qualifying for the Elite youth league. One of the cornerstones of the roadmap is the "creation of a national playing philosophy, which will be developed over time after consultation, observation and exploration". 

The federation observed that the talent development ecosystem is currently informal, with clubs and federation bodies working in silos without a systematic or uniform approach. 

The AIFF proposes to change this by creating a data-driven scouting structure from the Elite Youth League System for its national teams. Clubs will drive talent identification at the grassroots unto the Elite Youth structure. 

An increased focus will be put on utilising the FIFA windows across age groups to provide exposure to players in the national teams, with mega camps (two or more age groups) scheduled at least twice a year. Qualification for the FIFA U17 World Cups for both men and women on merit is a key part of the agenda.

(With inputs from PTI)

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