“To get the next Messi or Ronaldo from India, we need the support of all sports lovers in this country,” Mathrubootham told TNM.

Freshworks founder Mathrubootham starts venture with FC Madras to promote footballFacebook/Mahogany Football Club & Girish Mathrubootham
Sports Football Wednesday, June 06, 2018 - 14:15

At a launch event organised recently, Girish Mathrubootham, Founder, and CEO of Freshworks announced the creation of a charitable trust to promote grassroots football in India, with his decision to back FC Madras. The professional football club will compete in the U13 and U15 divisions of the I-League.

“We have created FC Madras as a public charitable trust with an aim to promote grassroots football in the country. With the resources we had at our disposal, we have managed to create the foundation for a world-class academy. We already have a residential academy which offers free scholarships to talented players from across the country,” Girish Mathrubootham told TNM.

“We are at the foundation of a hundred-storey building. To realise our dream of making FC Madras a world-class football academy, and get the next Messi or Ronaldo from India, we need the support of all sports lovers in this country. We would welcome all of you to generously participate in this cause” he added.

Along with the initiative, the FC Madras team unveiled their plans to open a residential football academy that offers free scholarships for talented young players who are interested in pursuing a career in football. FC Madras trust will partner with Mahogany FC, which will provide technical expertise to run the academy. Going forward, all activities performed by Mahogany FC will be transitioned under the name of FC Madras.

“Our aim with the FC Madras academy is to identify talented kids from across the country and give them a platform to become professional football players. We’ll be taking a 360° approach to their development by managing both on-field and off-field activities including high-performance training, nutrition, ongoing education and accommodation” said Arindam Biswas, who is the Head of Youth Development at FC Madras.

As part of its plans, FC Madras will set up an international size football pitch in Thoraipakkam, Chennai for the club’s home matches, which will be certified by FIFA in time for the next season of the I-League. However, unlike traditional football clubs, before setting up a senior team, FC Madras will be building the foundations of the club through its academy and playing competitive football in the youth divisions. Over the course of the year, the best players from the academy will get a chance to represent FC Madras, first in the Under 13 and Under 15 divisions following which, they will graduate to the Under 18 and senior teams.

"As part of this initiative, we're also working with Ramaniyam Real Estates and Great Sports Infra to set up a full-size international football field, and with APL Global Schools to provide education to the academy players based on the NIOS system,” said Girish in a statement to TNM.

When speaking about the level of encouragement that a youngster showing promise receives, Girish said, “I think in India, education is the enemy of sports. We’ve all been kids and loved playing sports, but as parents, we focus too much on education. Today, if a kid gets high marks in science and math, we say "well done" and don't bother to ask him why he isn't playing football well. On the other hand, when we see a kid playing football well but scoring low marks in social-science, we go and shame him. This used to be the sad state of affairs in our country and it's something we want to change"  

Mahogany Football Club, now known as FC Madras aims to provide youngsters with state of the art facilities to groom their skills. Started by Arindam Biswas and Joseph Vaz in April 2006 with a 2,000 square feet space at Bamboola Play School, RA Puram, Chennai, the club initially had just two students enrolled. Ever since, the club has grown leaps and bounds in establishing itself as a well-known breeding ground for youngsters with aspirations of becoming professional footballers.

Speaking about his interest in developing football from the grassroots following his personal experiences, Arindam told TNM, “When I was young, we had very few opportunities to develop our football skills and get better at the game. Thinking about football as a career and becoming a professional was a distant dream. Like everyone else, I initially decided to join a bank after my college and carry on with my life. But soon, I realised that I couldn't let go of my interest in football, and I made an instinctive call to do something about it.”

“At that time, I noticed that we had very few playgrounds for children below the age of 10. My idea was to get them access to the facilities they need to play football regularly,” he added.

Arindam Biswas, who is a business graduate with a passion for football, is the Founder and Head Coach of FC Madras. He said, "We've had the centre at St Louis Institute for the Deaf and Blind, Gandhi Nagar for the last twelve years. We also started in Bengaluru one year, but we were unable to manage it, so we had to shut it down. We wanted to focus on Chennai and other districts in the state. We also have a few partner clubs in Madurai and Coimbatore,” he added.

FC Madras is also the first team from Tamil Nadu to compete in the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) youth league and since then has been a regular in a host of youth tournaments conducted all over the country.

From the humble beginnings of the Bamboola Play School with just two students enrolled at the time, FC Madras has now expanded to over twenty centres all over Chennai, and now has more than five-hundred students enrolled.

Arindam, who is an AFC-A certified coach himself, has been busy scouting for talent along with his team. The team has already selected 30 players from across India and the academy will be accepting applications for the first batch until June 30, 2018. Interested players can apply by submitting a video of their skills here

In addition to the full-time academy, FC Madras also offers regular training programs for kids and youth players who want to get trained by certified coaches. The club already has over 20 training centres in the city in areas like Adyar, T. Nagar, Velachery and Thoraipakkam.

As current Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri recently mentioned in a heartfelt plea to fans all over the country, Indian football is at a crucial stage and FC Madras’ initiative will certainly go a long way in improving the prospects of the sport in India.

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