FIFA Chief of Global Football Development Arsène Wenger has visited India to kick off the ground-breaking Talent Development Scheme (TDS) in the world’s most populous nation, a significant moment in FIFA’s efforts to grow the game and raise standards around the world.
The four-day tour included a visit to the new training academy in Bhubaneswar in the state of Odisha, which is part of a wider national initiative to identify and develop the best young talents in the country.
Launched in 2022, the TDS aims to increase global competitiveness in both men’s and women’s national-team football so that more countries can shine on the world stage. It focuses on investing in academies, with FIFA planning to ensure that 75 member associations have at least one high-performance academy or centre of excellence in place by 2027 through the FIFA Academies Programme. Coaching is another feature of the TDS, with FIFA supporting member associations by providing knowledge and guidance from FIFA talent coaches.
In India, FIFA will be deploying full-time FIFA Talent Coach Sergi Amezcua and has appointed the High-Performance Specialist Ged Roddy to provide day-to-day guidance and expertise on the overall planning and implementation of the talent pathway. The TDS will complement the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) Vision 2047 in partnership with the Indian Super League, the I-League, leading clubs, academies and the regional state associations.
“There are many children in the world who don’t get the chance to develop their talent, and we can change that,” said Wenger. “We want to develop elite players in countries where there’s potential for further development and India is definitely one of them. The talent potential here is huge. We will work hand in hand with the AIFF to unlock this potential.”
The FIFA delegation, which included former international footballers and High Performance Specialists Phillipe Senderos and Ryan Nelson, began their visit in New Delhi where they met the AIFF senior management and took part in a two-day workshop with local talent identification specialists. They then travelled to the new academy in Odisha, a joint FIFA-AIFF initiative which is designed to develop competitive youth national teams. Once the centre is fully operational, the AIFF will seek to supplement this development with additional regional centres around the country.
“I would like to see India develop its youth system well, that we create great players, and that India goes to FIFA World Cups,” continued Wenger. “I believe that we have an opportunity to change the world of football. Football is the number one sport in the world, and a country like India, with a population of 1.4 billion, of course has to exist in this world – and that’s why we are here.”
Finally, Wenger and the FIFA delegation travelled to Mumbai to meet local clubs, leagues and football representatives, emphasising the importance of taking a partnership approach across all areas of the football ecosystem.
AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey thanked Wenger for his visit. “His guidance, leadership, technical plan and strategy will help India dream. Let’s take a small step and qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup on merit, and soon for the senior FIFA World Cup,” he said. “I have high expectations that through the AIFF-FIFA Talent Academy, we will get our best U-17 team in the next three years.”