June 23 is an auspicious day in Indian Football. It was on this day in 1936 that a certain Pradeep Kumar Banerjee was born in a pre-independence India, where football had just begun to play a role in inspiring the youth. Exactly a year later, the All India Football Federation was founded as the governing body of the beautiful game in the country.
As football in India has changed, evolved, experienced highs and lows over almost nine decades, the Federation has decided to mark the auspicious day of June 23 as the AIFF Grassroots Day, with the aim of improving football from the ground up.
The Federation had already announced its intent to create a long-term plan for the development of football, Vision 2047. The Blue Cubs initiative that was launched earlier this year, with the aim of creating an extensive and robust grassroots structure across the country, will play a key role in improving the level of football.
AIFF President Mr Kalyan Chaubey said, “Grassroots is at the very heart of the plan we are executing here at the Federation, and there is no better day than the 87th birth anniversary of our dear Pradeep da (PK Banerjee)to earmark our journey to make India a successful footballing nation.
“Pradeep da was truly one of the finest players of his days, and has contributed so much to Indian Football, even after retiring from the game,” said Mr Chaubey. “This is also the AIFF’s Foundation Day, which makes it a perfect occasion to celebrate the very tool – Grassroots – with which we can push football ahead in India.”
The Federation also released the Blue Cubs manual on Friday, June 23, 2023, which is aimed at taking the grassroots game in India forward.
AIFF Secretary General Dr Shaji Prabhakaran said, “For us strengthening and broad-basing grassroots football is an absolute priority. Our flagship grassroots programme, Blue Cubs is designed to reach every corner of India and today, when we are celebrating AIFF’s first ever Grassroots Day, I feel touched as this is the day our legend PK Banerjee was born and he touched many lives with his on and off pitch exploits.
“I have personally experienced how he wanted to take Indian football forward by strengthening grassroots football. It is truly an honour for us to celebrate his birthday as AIFF Grassroots Day,” he said. “Further, today, with the release of the Blue Cubs manual, we are trying to empower millions to take forward grassroots football in India together with us.”
According to the AIFF’s research, around one lakh children are involved in football grassroots across the nation, a number the federation intends to take up to 100 million in 25 years’ time. The chief aim is to help the National Teams gain more quality players at the top level.
AIFF Grassroots Committee chairperson Mr Mulrajsinh Chudasama said, “The Blue Cubs will shine and bring glory to the Blue Tigers! I am extremely happy that the AIFF has come up with the launch of the Blue Cubs operating manual, which simplifies the process and will act as a helpful tool for all the enthusiasts who are eagerly working for the development of Grassroots Football in our beloved nation.”
Not only will the Blue Cubs programme introduce a well-organised system that caters to children between ages 4 to 12, but the AIFF will also launch the Blue Clubs League, which will put the youngsters in competition mode from a very early age.
As per the plans under the Blue Cubs programme, children between the ages 4-6 will play 2v2 and 3v3 formats without goalkeepers on a smaller pitch, the size of which would gradually increase as they move forward to age 7-9 (5v5 format), and 10-12 (7v7 format). These leagues will also have rotational goalkeepers.
It is through the efforts of all parties involved that the Federation intends to grow the beautiful game as a whole. Right from volunteers, parents, and coaches, to schools, clubs, NGOs, and state associations, the Blue Cubs programme intends to create a wide grassroots network with holistic growth of youth development.
Through various collaborative efforts, the Elite Blue Cubs will also be identified and further nurtured as future prospects for the National Teams.
The Blue Cubs programme will also cover a wide array of elements to help in community building, encouraging children to take leadership roles, enhancing the level of school and village football, installing better pitches, digital accessibility, talent identification, arranging festivals, leagues and futsal tournaments, and also help the kids understand nutrition at a young age.