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I-League 2nd Division

We are going to focus on the 'real' grassroots, says South United Football Club Sporting Director Terry Phelan

Published at :February 13, 2024 at 8:35 PM
Modified at :February 15, 2024 at 4:42 PM
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Terry Phelan also disclosed strategies they will implement to identify & recruit young prospects.

Terry Phelan, a prominent figure in Indian football, is currently serving as the Technical Director of I-League 2nd division team, South United FC. With a rich background as a former professional footballer, Phelan has played a pivotal role in shaping the football landscape in India.

His experience extends to serving as the Technical Director and coach of Kerala Blasters, a giant in the Indian Super League. Phelan’s contributions to the sport go beyond coaching, making him a familiar and respected name in the Indian football circle.

In a recent interview to Khel Now, he shared insights into his role as the Sporting Director of the South United Football Club, showcasing his continued commitment to the development and progress of football in the country.

What inspired the decision to establish an academy in Pune?

Terry Phelan expressed satisfaction with the achievements in Bengaluru and expressed a desire to replicate the same in Pune. Emphasizing Pune’s promising football culture and potential for grassroots development, he conveyed the foundation’s dedication to fostering football excellence in the region. 

“I think it was the brain child of the owner more than anything else. You know Mr. Sharan – what he created in Bangalore – is a hope of football with a community project there and its infrastructure and it went really strong in the pre-COVID times. And during COVID, it was really a testing time and yet we built the Bangalore infrastructure and opened a club – the South United Football Club, Then we started thinking about how can we help anyone else? Where can we go to? And we started looking for places and of course Pune was our first stop. 

“We had to get an array of coaches in, that’s what we have done. I think it’ll facilitate the growth of football as leaders and growth of the game in Pune through all different movements. We had a football club just not an academy. I believe if we can bring what we have done and achieved in Bangalore, we can achieve the same in Pune too! Not just on the football field but off-field as well, having a player centered approach from the start to the first team.” He said.

Possibility of outreaching new academies to give academy players wider platform

The Technical Director outlined the academy’s commitment to expanding outreach to players from diverse backgrounds. Emphasizing the importance of grassroots development, he highlighted the academy’s dedication to nurturing talent and providing opportunities to aspiring footballers.

“Like I said before, South United will run three programs at their training centres in the city, which will include their unique Toddler Development Program (3-5 Years), their flagship Youth Development Program (5-18 years), and their Elite Youth Teams (U-13, U-15, and U-17) where talented athletes are provided a full scholarship from the club, thereby opening a pathway to the Senior Team. We also have the youth development programme and then obviously we’ll be looking at our league teams.

“That’s a great pathway but on top of that we also have our first team. We can also travel with other league teams. We can travel to Bangalore so that’s a bit more unique approach than just playing in Pune. We want to give them a good outreach and the best we can probably do regardless of whether it’s a coach-centric approach or an analytic approach, that’s what we are focusing on.

Strategies in place to identify & recruit

Terry Phelan mentioned diverse approaches and strategies being implemented for both on and off the field growth, indicating a comprehensive plan to enhance various aspects of the academy’s development.

“I think that bolts down to a lot of points. It depends on what we’re looking at – if we are looking at the academy as such or the developmental approach. We have a lot of parents who are asking through different social media, we have walk-ins in the academy but if you are looking at the elite teams we will be holding try outs.

“For that we have our coaches, heads of development, academy managers and me along with the head coach. And that’s what we will probably do. That’s one of the pathways in the early teens but it has to be done in the right way. We are looking at the students who fall in love with the game as well as where we can develop them into professional football players.” 

Goals and initiatives

Terry emphasized diverse approaches and strategies for on and off-field growth while outlining his plans and vision for the academy’s future. This signals a comprehensive strategy to enhance various facets of the academy’s development.

“It starts at the bottom as well as the top. It starts from what the owners want and what the directors want. Then it comes down to the coach and the coaching philosophy and the club philosophy, the club innovations and then we are looking at the students. We have a different array of students coming in for different moment’s. Some of them are coming to gain knowledge of the game, few come for the love of the sport, few to get fitter and that’s what this is about – trying to help all these different types of students.” 

Plans for long vision & success

Terry Phelan has initiated plans that are already showing promise, and he envisions a long-term impact on the development of Indian football, particularly from the grassroots level. His strategic approach reflects a commitment to nurturing talent and contributing to the broader growth of football in the country.

“The plans have already started. We look at the early stages. We build an infrastructure in Bangalore which was absolutely fantastic, it took some time because of COVID but it has bounced back thanks to Mr. Sharan. And now we are looking at spreading our wings in the ecosystem.

“We have come to Pune now. We’re looking to deliver the same kind of results that we have achieved in Bangalore in a different way. Now we have all the facilities and an array of coaches; we are growing in all areas. It’s not just about on the field it’s also about the off-field things like employability skills. We are looking for more coaches to come in and add to the ecosystem to collectively contribute to the All India Football Federation,” he concluded.

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