Sport is an essential part of a child’s life. It becomes even more crucial when the child is particularly talented at a specific sport. The drawback in our country is the lack of infrastructure and good sporting Football Academy. This lack has rendered many aspiring sports players with nowhere to go and a body full of talent in waste. Yet, the glimmer of hope is not lost yet.
The little flicker of hope is still lighted every time Akesh T, the son of a fisherman, gets up and scores a goal. Akesh, along with many other children are nurtured by the Little Flower Football Academy in Thiruvananthapuram. Akesh was successful in securing himself a spot in the national level football tournaments, and all because of the dedicated efforts of Football Academy like LiFFA who are making sure that the reservoir of talent that India has, doesn’t go to waste.
This academy has tapped into youngster especially belonging to a poor and the underprivileged community of fishermen. This academy was started by the efforts of the Roman Catholic Church, which has now given a new lease of life to these aspiring football players.
Gone are the days when Christian institutions used to be inhibited by the idea of competitive sports. They have now shrugged that off and started funding and founding clubs like Everton Fc, which is now known are Manchester City.
The Roman Catholic Church has managed to tap into the correct sector- in a place where football is seen to be the second religion, and many people eat and pray football. They have started a campaign to find these young talents from the coastal regions and train them with facilities they otherwise could not have afforded. These natural footballers are now getting some world class training. From Eraimanthura in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu to Anchuthengu in Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala, the academy is leaving no stones unturned to find these hidden gems and unleash their talent into the world of sports.
This Football Academy can actually go and long way and script history for Indian soccer in a huge way, just like Everton and Manchester City. The project was initially launched in 2015 with 25 boys in the first batch and the most basic facilities, but the new phase of the project is greatly promising. They will have their own full-fledged land, and the required infrastructure to catapult them to the big leagues.
This is especially great news for Indian soccer, since history has it, that football clubs set up by churches have found great success in England. Several leading clubs in England like- Everton, Manchester City, Southampton, Fulham, Birmingham City, Southampton were all set up by churches initially before they became as big as they are today.
“It’s the first of its kind in the country being initiated by any church, and in the near future the academy will be able to accommodate boys from other communities as well,” said LiFFA director Fr Thomas Netto to the Times Of India. The academy also aims to bring in a level of self-discipline among children in the community, where poor backgrounds and adverse circumstances could cause them to turn astray.
Akesh was part of the first batch to be trained by this academy in 2015. “LiFFA has come as a blessing for students in coastal villages who love playing football. Now focused both in football and in our studies, we are leading a disciplined life. I have now started dreaming about wearing the Indian jersey in the near future,” he was quoted saying.
The Thiruvananthapuram Bishop’s House, “thrilled by the way LiFFA boys dribbled themselves into national and state sides (U-14), besides in Youth League teams over the last four years.” They have also stated their willingness to provide land for this noble venture. Two suitable locations measuring between 8 and 10 acres have already been identified, and now it is up to them. It is now LiFFA management to raise funds for establishing all the proposed facilities.
The academy has seen great success rates with six boys are in the U-14 national team, 30 players have played for Kerala and many more.
As of now the academy only chooses students from the community under the church residing in the coastal belt. “Our goal was to provide scientific training to these highly talented boys and give them the much-needed state and national-level exposure,” Netto said. “It also turned out to be a successful initiative to combat possible drug abuse among these children,” he added.
The academy has helped these talented and skilled youngsters to pursue their dream of playing football, and turn it into something bigger. The academy now wants to ensure that these boys are ready to play for the national team and get the exposure that they deserve.
Looking at the case of this wonderful academy, it is important to reflect how important it is to set up sporting academies in the remotest towns in our country. These remote regions are the ones who have the least opportunities, to come up and make their presence felt at the national level. There is a bucket full of talent in our country, which is unable to come out since the right facilities are now available to them. It is extremely essential, that just like LiFFa, more initiatives are taken and these skilled individuals are given a chance to prove themselves to the whole world.
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Also published on Medium.