The Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA) has constantly worked to improve sports at the grassroots level. In doing so, it has always included young children in its programs across each and every sporting discipline. The rural youth have been at the core of its vision of promoting a sporting culture, and this vision begins with young children.
The Asian Football Confederation’s Grassroots Football Day (AFC-GFD) 2016 on Sunday, May 15 was an apt occasion for the ASA to reach out to young children, through football. Earlier, the ASA had organised grassroots football events with young children and reached out to U13 age group during their Football Academy selection trials when Indian Super League, FC Goa footballer, Jofre Mateu offered his assistance to the ASA football Academy.
ASA was well aware of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) plans to develop grassroots football in India by reaching out to much younger children. It therefore decided to organise the AFC-GFD involving at least 200 children between the ages of 6-12 years. It also saw the accomplishment of its own target of involving younger children in football, to grow the outreach of the beautiful game in India, thus contributing to its popularity.
The AFC-GFD, was held at the Anantapur Sports Village (ASV). The ASA invited all 25 of its mandal (village-level) football clubs to send children between the ages of six and twelve to participate in it. A total of 207 children showed up, they were divided into ten groups where as many as 27 coaches took charge, each group having at least a female and male coach. “Most of these children have never seen a football in their life, let alone playing with it. The idea is to introduce these children to football in a fun manner. Only when they like the game will they come forward to play it,” shared ASA Football Academy Assistant Head Coach, P. Vijayabhaskar.
The AFC-GFD 2016 schedule began with registering the children for the program the moment they arrived on the afternoon of May 14, 2016. The main program on May 15 saw the children playing several fun games during two sessions. The idea was to allow each child as much play time as possible involving a football. Each group played small sided games, on ten futsal ground sized pitches, at the ASV football ground and cricket ground. The children were made to play fun games like monkey in the middle, playing cricket with a football, tennis with a football, caterpillar, etc.
The AFC-GFD program at the ASA was more than just football. The kids were encouraged to get involved in a series of icebreakers and fun activities after their arrival on the 14th and yet again after the main program activities on the 15th evening.
“We closely followed the AIFF and AFC guidelines and came up with our own drills to subconsciously teach the children the basics of football, while showing them the physical and psychological benefits of the game. We kept in mind that if done well, these children would come back wanting more, eventually growing our grassroots structure while adding to the popularity of the sport, which is what the AIFF and AFC have been looking to achieve through this nationwide program,” said Shaikh Moulali, a senior ASA football academy player and AFC-GFD mentoring coach.