Kushal Das: Indian football must percolate down to the states

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) General Secretary Kushal Das wants to see the state associations get more involved in the development of Indian football. He hopes that the states conduct more matches in their respective leagues.

Das was speaking at a webinar organised by Sportseed Pro where he made the observation. However, he did mention that increased involvement of states in Indian football was only one of seven key areas that the AIFF is focusing on as part of its strategic plan for 2019-2023.

He also went on to highlight the professional way in which AIFF has been operating in the last decade or so. "In 2007, AIFF started operating in a professional way. It was a huge challenge to turn it around since I joined in November 2010. The commercial partner moved away and they did not want to broadcast the matches. Fortunately, we found another commercial partner and once we got the cashflow, we started building up," he revealed.

"AIFF needed a four-year strategic plan involving every aspect of football involving youth development, women's football, grassroots, infrastructure, and everything. We had a first strategic plan and then we have now launched a second strategic plan from 2019-2023. There are seven pillars we are focussing on particularly," he said.

"We have a set of objectives and key results. In our pursuit of excellence, we review those from time to time. We conduct meetings with the HODs (Head of Departments) to keep track of those."

One of the seven areas that the AIFF is focusing on is ensuring there are more and more youth tournaments conducted which will go a long way in handing opportunities for young talent.

"First, we need to do a competition-based development. We have 200 teams playing across the three youth leagues. We have a strong accreditation process which ensures that the principles are followed for the development of football in the academies. The idea is to enhance the duration of the competition.

"The second area is the pursuit of excellence. It is important to have the right professionals in the right places. We have 60 professionals working across various departments in the AIFF," he added.

The next key area is going local with the involvement of more and more states.

Kushal Das

"The third is going local. The game must percolate down to the states. It is necessary to de-centralise. We must ask the states to conduct more matches and state leagues. The idea is that each youth player must get 35-to-40 matches a year. Last year the average was 12 and this year we have managed to get that to 20. And in the next three years, we need to get to 35-to-40," said Das.

The Indian FA have also prioritised the development of women's football, with India set to host the 2020 Women's U17 World Cup and the 2022 Women's AFC Asian Cup. Das highlighted the same while also touching upon the success of the Indian Women's League (IWL). The AIFF also have plans to constitute youth league for girls.

"Fourth is women's football. Women's football is spreading across the country. This time a Kerala team won the IWL and the game is expanding. We have discussed with SAI (Sports Authority of India) if we can conduct a U13, U15, and U17 women's league. A fair bit of activity is happening in women's football and I believe we can do well in Asia soon."

Developing the existing infrastructure and relying on the use of technology with respect to registration of players are also high on AIFF's agenda.

"The fifth is the infrastructure. In 2017, our infrastructure was developed to a large extent before hosting the U17 World Cup. We have added new venues and now we have seven-to-eight world-class venues. We are building a national centre of excellence in Kolkata on 16 acres of land and all national teams will start to visit that for training and other purposes.

"Even the training grounds have improved and it is time that the states utilise these infrastructures for the local leagues."

"Sixth area is the use of technology. The Central Registration System (CRS) is working very well. The competition management system is also working well. We had some teething problems in the beginning but now it is running smoothly. It was a challenging aspect and I urge all states to use this system as it will help them in organizing tournaments," he revealed.

Das stated that the AIFF have also revamped their website where any prospective player or his guardians can locate the nearest AIFF accredited football facility with ease.

"Seventh is the website. It has been revamped and the segment 'find football' is very interesting where one can easily locate the nearest academy or football facility."