Grassroots Football: Problems in Manipur.

After a month of practice, heavy torrential rainfall and studies, the day had come for the students to test whatever they had learnt. Subroto Mukherjee Cup is an annual tournament for schools which start at the district level then at the state level ending with the national phase at New Delhi. For the boys it was a first time experience and the highest expectations for them to become the district champions. But our morales were low as soon as we reached the venue.

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The above picture is a bit of an exaggeration but the field was something like it-lop sided. Our opponents at first sight looked like U-20’s (This was an U-14 event) but there was no way to prove this. Don’t get me wrong. There is a medical check before any games but the criteria for U-14 is the number of teeth must not exceed 28 which is ridiculous given that I am 24 and I have only 29 teeth. Consider the chances of illegal participation – I could just break one of my teeth to participate in an U-14 game. If that’s not enough, the field did not have marked lines which I recall is mandatory by FIFA rules. The grass was half-feet high. This seemed like a huge task but the boys had a great second-half and from 2 down we made it 2-1 and it seemed like it was going to penalties but I guess was asking too much. As a coach and a Football enthusiast, I believe that to reach a high level of football infrastructure is important but rampant corruption has stolen away the opportunities for the deserving. I have been criticized for fielding young players but I believe that long term development will yield better rewards.