Euro 2016 was full of surprises none more so than Iceland beating the 2nd rank team, Belgium to qualify for the quarter-finals. If a country of about 3,30,000 people could achieve this why can’t India?
Right now India’s football system is in chaos with two different leagues ISL and I-League which is not helping Indian Football at all. Keeping the national debate aside what I really want is to highlight the system in the States (Regional) with Manipur and CCpur/Lamka district in context. Why? If we want football development it must start at the bottom (grassroots). Manipur is a sleeping giant overtaken by Mizoram- a region with limited resource compared to Manipur- when it comes to developing football talent. Some might blame the Infrastructure, Finance or the State Association but Iceland too had problems (Iceland is a land of active volcanoes) and it is time we put some thought to it. Here are some suggestions (after going through various resources on Football Development) which in my opinion are fundamental for growth of Football in India/Manipur.
Siggi Eyjolfsson Ex technical director/coach education director, F.A. of Iceland from 2002-2014
Indian Football regionally is headed by a State Association (All Manipur Football Association) but when it comes to Districts it is the District Sports Association who look after not just football but every sport. DSA could do with a Technical Director who is a person responsible only for one sport (here football) and its development. This Technical Director must be well versed in the sport category he heads and should have a good understanding of business. His role will be to create objectives for the district and decide how as to develop the level of football.
Being a land that receives snow for most of the year KSI(Iceland Football Association) realized the lack of football grounds that could be used all year round so what they did was build indoor stadiums. Now other than Imphal all the other districts lack Infrastructure. It is not necessary that we build many stadiums. For instance Lamka has Peace and Public ground that has potential to be upgraded. But two is not enough and so what DSA Lamka can do is partner with civil associations that maintain a ground (village play grounds) and they could co-maintain it. I estimate that Lamka Super division football would require at least 2 football stadiums with seating capacity and 10 – 15 simple fields for First division and below.
- HUMAN RESOURCE
Iceland has around 600 UEFA B licensed coaches and around 200 UEFA B licensed coaches (comparable to India’s AFC A and B license) i.e 1 for 100 people compared to England’s 1 for 10000 people (The Guardian). Keeping the cost low (no profit, no loss) is one way how they have achieved it. DSA’s could inform interested persons and arrange for Coach training. It is not just coaches but also other roles like grounds man or management that could be encouraged. Institutes like SMRI (Kerala) and NSI (national sports institute) offer various diplomas related to sports.
- COMPETITION MODEL
All districts have their own leagues in a tier system with super division being the top league. The ‘model’ or ‘structure’ varies from district to district. The Technical Director role is to create objectives like say developing talent and based on this objective changes are made to the football system.
There are various factors that are inter-dependent like length of the league depends on the budget of DSA. Following are some factors that I would like to stress:
a) Finance: Often competitions in India suffer because of lack of funds and sponsors. This is why having a technical director or any other member with strong business knowledge is important. Most of the branded private companies are not going to sponsor a league with low brand value so focus should be on local businesses. For instance instead of asking Nike to be the ball sponsors why not collaborate with Indian business like Nivia, Cosco or Sahni Sports.
The DSA’s could arrange for a centralised revenue collection so that whatever the League gets in terms of sponsorship or broadcasting revenue will be shared with all the teams.
One of the reason why I-League did not meet expectations is their lack of popularity. Management of Indian clubs are orthodox or old-style with no initiative to communicate with fans or society. The art of communication and use of modern tools like facebook, whatsapp must be taught to clubs and DSA (They could hire a professional Community Relation Manager). Optimizing available mass-media like TV, Radio and Social Networking Sites is a must. After all you need an audience and if you have that the value of the competition increase and so do the revenue stream.
c) League structure:
Depending on the objectives of DSA the league could be structured. So if DSA’s objective is to produce young talents, rules stating teams to feature young players in the first team could be enforced.
Another topic I would stress is the fixture of games. Mostly games are cramped and finished in a week or two which will deteriorate the level of football. It is a fact that at least teams get 3 day break otherwise there will be more injuries which hinders development. The reason why football games are usually played in the weekends and Sundays is to see higher attendance and enough recovery time. If there are financial constrains then the league could be improvised. Example, Teams in Lamka/CCpur‘s Super Division could play once and the top four could go through a knock-out. But note must be taken that if the duration of the league is short, then the level of the game will not develop. I think Super Division must have duration of 3 months so to give the teams an experience of State League. I have noticed that in places like Lamka and Sadar-hills there are many un-official tournaments. This can be chaotic and not a positive for football development (Zomi Nam Ni, Khanglai Meet, Dog Sport…etc). Instead DSA could collaborate with organisers of such competitions to arrange an official competition. Again in the context of Lamka a competition like ‘Lamka Cup’ could be arranged where teams from all division could play against each other. With such a change Football will be organised (more professional) and there will be no unwanted long gaps between competitions.
Other things like the time of the year to conduct sports and the time of the day could also be considered to make it favourable for players, supporters and development of football over all.
NOTE: The four factors that I have outlined are the principles for good development of any sport. There are many ways to develop football but in my opinion the above four factors are important and universal which is why I have been brief. If you feel that there are some points I have missed or you just want to discuss football, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org