KOCHI: They were making their debut in a professional football league, but they did not demonstrate any lack of confidence. After going through the rigorous practice sessions at academies, it was more like a 'cool off' period for them. They were agile and strode towards glory at every given chance. Egged on by the enthusiastic cheering of their parents, the inaugural edition of the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) 'Baby League’ began on November 24 at the Kochi Ambedkar stadium was a treat to watch.
The league, organised by Scoreline Sports, will kick off football matches in the U-9, U-11 and U-13 categories. Eight teams in each category will lock horns for the coveted championships. The leagues will witness a total of 12 matches each Saturday and a total of 56 matches in each age group by the time the event is scheduled to conclude in March.
Currently, Golden Eagles top the table in the U-9 category, followed by Dolphins. In the U-11 category, Golden Eagles take the pole position joined by FF academy on second. Whereas, Cowboys and Golden Eagles come in first and second in the U-13 category respectively.
AIFF conceived Baby League as a promotion for the sport. Any individual or team can organise a league by registering on the Baby League App. "Creating the maximum playing opportunities for budding talents and engaging parents in the sport are the major aims behind the endeavour," said Anil Kumar P, general secretary, Kerala Football Association (KFA)
Around 10 such leagues are currently active across the state, with professional academies and training centres being the major participants. "Managing the officials and availability of equipment and grounds will be a challenge. As they can host only a few matches on a weekend considering the children's school schedules, the leagues usually take three to five months to complete," said Anil.
KFA is also soon set to launch the schedules of the Kerala Academy League and Kerala Premier League. "Other than existing leagues, we are planning to organise a senior women's league and an academy league in the female category shortly," said Anil.
Former Kerala Blasters FC coach Terry Phelan, KFA president K M I Mather and Kerala junior team captain Sarath K P jointly inaugurated the league on November 24. Former India Internationals C C Jacob and M M Jacob were present.
On the opening day, Dolphins Edappally beat Cowboys Paravur (7-2) in the U-9, Thunderboys beat SH Academy (5-1) in U-11, and Scoreline FC beat Muthoot FA (6-3) in the U-13 categories.