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FIFA-AIFF Talent Academy in Bhubaneswar nears player selection, eyes 2026 U-17 World Cup qualification

Published at :December 08, 2023 at 07:55 PM
Modified at :January 14, 2024 at 12:16 AM
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Yash Pratap Singh

Government of Odisha to spend Rs. 4 crores per year to run the academy.

Chief of Global Development at FIFA and former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger inaugurated the highly anticipated FIFA-AIFF talent academy in Bhubaneswar last month and said it is his primary responsibility to maximise the potential of Indian Football.

And now, according to the Hindustan Times, Arsene Wenger’s team has selected 38 out of the 50 under-14 boys chosen for the talent academy in Bhubaneswar. The players will be scouted primarily from the U-13 and U-15 national leagues scheduled to start in January next year and all the trainees are expected to be selected by June 2024

“So, the academy is ready but we don’t have players now,” an AIFF official told Hindustan Times. 

“There is a difference between the eyes of Wenger and Sergio and our scouts,” said another AIFF official who also did not want to be named.

AIFF’s acting secretary-general M Satyanarayan said June 2024 was always the target for AIFF to get all 30 trainees. “It will be a continuous process over three to four months because FIFA is very clear about the scouting process being thorough.”

“We are finalising the modus operandi of how to scout players from the youth leagues which will have teams from academies, ISL and I-League clubs,” said Satyanarayan over the phone on Tuesday. The FIFA team has conducted two workshops, one of them during Wenger’s visit, and six “super scouts” have been identified who will help AIFF spot the players, he said.

“Which is great but why not hold open trials in states known for football now that Sergio is here? Wouldn’t we get some boys that way,” asked the AIFF official who had pointed out that the academy was ready but players were not.

Speaking separately Satyanarayan said, AIFF scouts had seen nearly 35 teams in the national championships so the focus would be on the youth leagues where participating teams must also clear medical age-verification test.

“The 30 players chosen by AIFF will be at the academy for 340 days a year. Our target is to get the team ready for the 2026 under-17 World Cup qualifiers,” said Satyanarayan.

When fully functional, the academy, built by the Odisha government which will also spend nearly ₹4 crore annually in running it, will have 45 boys including 15 from Odisha. Training for the boys from Odisha could start in February 2024, said Satyanarayan.

Alongside Sergio Fontronda there will be two assistants and one goalkeepers’ coach provided by AIFF. Moreover, there will also be two physios, two team managers and two wardens working on a full-time basis. A tutor, doctor and welfare officer will also be a part of the support staff.

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