With the focus on expanding the reach and awareness of football and locating talents at the grass root level, 45 community football coaches from across India completed the phase two of their training programme here on Sunday under the Premier Skills initiative.
The initiative, jointly organised by the Premier League and the British Council, hosted six coach educators including four from the UK for a six-day programme from September 18-23, where grass root level football coaches from Sports Authority of India (SAI) and other affiliated institutions were given training regarding community development using the power of football.
All these coaches had previously completed the phase one training of Premier Skills, held earlier in other parts of the country.
"What's important in this course is that it is not all about the best child footballer. Here it is important that all children enjoy football and all of them grow up to have a healthy lifestyle. So we make sure that they are able to deliver fun, engaging and inclusive activities, which is a different type of coaching," said head coach Jeremy Weeks, who was the former Acting Sports development Manager in Fulham FC.
80 kids from the ATK academy in Kolkata and a number of NGOs participated in the football festival held on the final day of the training.
"Initiatives like community football would increase the popularity and awareness of the game and at the same time help bring up talent from the grass root level. There is still some hesitancy among the kids and their parents to pursue football as a full-time career but there is no dearth of skills. So initiatives like this would help pick hidden talents," said Regional Director of SAIA Manmeet Singh Goindi, who was present at the event.
"The response has been good so far. The role of SAI is to find these hidden talents, provide them with the best possible infrastructure, facilities and coaches and see whether they can take Indian football to the next level," he explained.
Goindi said the coaches would be given a licence by SAI after completing the third and final phase of training to be held in January next year.
"The programme is aimed at expanding the reach of football in the country as well as teaching the art of playing in a scientific way. It also looks for community-level participation and aims to break certain social barriers like gender ambiguity using the power of football. For example, out of the 45 coaches being trained here for the last six days, 20 are women," a senior British Council official said.
Premier Skills, which began in 2007, has trained 21,891 coaches and referees in 29 countries so far. It began its journey in India in 2008.