KOCHI:Boots on. Donning the official jersey of the FACT Football Academy, 11 teenagers enter the field for an under-13 I-League match. Fans cheer in the gallery while the boys send the ball flying to the goalpost one after the other.This is a dream. And if all goes well, this could well be a reality scripting the rest of the lives of the players.
The academy, which has been a model training place for young football players for five years now, is gunning for a berth in the under-13 I-League. “We are in the middle of the process for accreditation from the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for an under-13 team,” said Walter Antony, coach of the academy.
“We have selected 10 players from the academy itself. Also, we conducted a state-wide selection process from clubs that aren’t playing in the I-League. From this, we found 10 students and have informed their parents. Now, we need to sit down with them to set up a contract. The contracts along with the players’ insurance scheme will have to be submitted to AIFF.”
The academy already functions according to the federation’s criteria. The players are trained on the FACT Ground. The academy also has a computerised office and an official website is being set up. Moreover, talks regarding hiring a medical group, including a doctor and a physiotherapist, are progressing on the sidelines.
The academy, once accredited, will have AIFF-approved coaches training the players. “V P Shaji will be the head coach and he will be handling the technical side of the team. Other coaches will be Paul T Thomas, Jyothish and Rejison E Thomas,” said Walter.
Since its inception, students of the academy have literally been going places. “We already have our students playing in other I-League clubs,” he said. “One student has gone abroad to play. Two have been taken into Mohun Bagan A C. We also have our students playing in the Kerala Blasters under-15 team. So we thought why not play in the I-League directly. That’s when the efforts for a chance in the I-League began. Walter said the academy will be able to promote the kids to the next level by starting in the under-13 level. “In the coming years, we will be thinking about a team in under-16, under-19 and senior levels of I-League,” he said.
The financial trouble in the fertiliser company has not affected the FACT Football Academy. With former FACT players as coaches, the academy currently provides training to young players for a minimal or no charge at all.