NEW DELHI: The promotion of grassroots football works best when all stakeholders focus on improving the quality and quantity of young talent by working hand-inhand with the national federation, feels AIFF's head of player development, Richard Hood.
The All India Football Federation last year launched the 'Baby League', a grassroots development programme that intends to involve greater participation from children starting as early as five years of age and centered as much around matchplay as it is around skills development.
"We have enjoyed a lot of success through our presentations to stakeholders in explaining the state of Indian football and the need to address the change from the bottom," Hood said.
"The use of facts and evidence with an honest reflection of the past has allowed for a strong and clear message to be conveyed and we are seeing the entities willing to take the league forward grow steadily."
State associations play a pivotal role in the development of grassroots football and with the introduction of Baby Leagues, several associations are adopting the setup.
"So far we have had Maharashtra (WIFA) and Mumbai District (MDFA) sign the 'Player Development Pact' last August," Hood said.
"Since then we have used their strong network of WIFAMumbai City FC accredited centres to start a formidable league which will aim to target school network and grow the 25 million strong population into a stronghold."
Northeast is one of the football hot spots of India and with the sport already a part of the culture in the seven sisters, it was a matter of time before the Baby League concept revolutionised football's growth there.
"Meghalaya signed with us in July. They have submitted a strong and exciting proposal for the concept which will start in Shillong and grow to the neighbouring districts."
"Mizoram came on board in January this year and already has a Baby League running in Champhai district which was endorsed by some of the biggest names in Mizoram football," Hood said.
"They have shown fantastic willingness to take the project forward in other districts and have multiple leagues run in Aizawl in the months to come. The emerging futsal culture will be integrated into the model as well," he said.
Commending the setup of Baby Leagues in the states which have implemented the system, Hood said, "We have seen some fantastic leadership and teamwork in each of these states purely on the basis of collective mindset to commit to a singular process for 12-15 years in producing players."