Besides Maharashtra, Mizoram and Meghalaya have also implemented the Baby League.
Maharashtra was the first to adopt the Baby League introduced by AIFF for aspiring footballers in the 8-12 age group with 24 centres in Mumbai and Pune.
Maharashtra was the first state in the country to adopt the All India Football Association’s Baby League. In December, the Western India Football Association (WIFA) and Mumbai City FC had launched India’s first Baby League for aspiring footballers in the age group of 8 to 12 years, by setting up 24 developmental centres in Mumbai and Pune.
“We have three age-group (U-8, U-10, U-12) categories divided into six zones as per their locality. The matches are being played on a home and away basis. The league has already started (from January 14) and will continue till the end of March.
Each team will get an opportunity to play around 16 matches. There are a total of 72 teams playing 410 matches across 24 developmental centres The winners and the runners up will play in the Champions League later,” said Wifa Technical Director Mangesh Desai.
“We are updating the match details with photos of players on our website and also posting on social media. The response has been immense from kids and their parents. Currently, the League is on in Mumbai and Pune, but in future we will try to spread it to other centres as well,” Desai added.
The propagation of grassroots football works best when all the stakeholders involved concentrate on building and expanding the base of the player pyramid structure, working hand-in-hand with the national federation to improve the quality and the quantity of the available talent pool. State Associations also play a pivotal role in the development of grassroots football.
“So far we have had Maharashtra (WIFA) and Mumbai District (MDFA) sign the ‘Player Development Pact’ in August 2017. Since then, we have used the strong network of WIFA-Mumbai City FC accredited centres to start a formidable league, which will now aim to target the school network and grow the 25 million strong population into a genuine stronghold,” said AIFF’s Head of Player Development Richard Hood.
Besides Maharashtra, Mizoram and Meghalaya have also implemented the Baby League. “We have seen some fantastic leadership and teamwork in each of these states purely on the basis of a collective mindset, to commit to a singular process for 12-15 years in producing players. The roadmap ahead will first be to strengthen what is already our strengths and take the project forward to willing states, clubs and stakeholders,” Hood said.
The introduction of the Baby Leagues will lead to the overall development of Indian football with referees, coaches and other technical staff being involved in the process of setting up a well-rounded league.
Hood agrees and adds, “Within this framework, we will start to see stakeholders take extra effort and set unforeseen standards and also aid in the development of coaches and referees, who will get an unprecedented and much-needed number of games under their belt,” he said.
With the U-13 I-League and U-15 I-League coming into play, young footballers will have a platform to showcase their talent.