These institutions have produced some of the brightest young talents in the country over the years.
Grassroots is the backbone for the development of football in a country. Indian football has seen a lot of bright young talents rise into limelight in the recent years. Various football academies in India have immaculate facilities and infrastructure to take the sport to new heights.
Players like Liston Colaco, Rahim Ali, Redeem Tlang, Shubham Sarangi are shining examples of their academies’ productivity. They have already made a mark in the Indian Super League at a young age and would be the players to reckon with in the coming years.
That said, let’s have a look at five of the top academies in India which are driving Indian football forward:
5. JSW Bengaluru FC Academy
Established in 2013, Bengaluru FC are one of the more professional clubs in the country with their own AIFF-accredited academy. The academy’s operations began in 2013 under Richard Hood as the Head of Youth Development. In 2016, they also announced the establishment of a residential academy in Vijayanagar, Bellary with Dutchman John Kila as the head.
For years, the academy has seen top coaches like Hood, Kila, Naushad Moosa, Sachin Badadhe working behind the scenes to develop the stars of tomorrow. Players like Emanuel Lalchhanchhuaha, Damaitphang Lyngdoh, Leon Augustine, Parag Shrivas rose through the ranks, showing promising signs.
In 2020, the AFC conferred two-star academy status to the JSW Bengaluru FC Academy, subject to re-evaluation after three years.
4. Minerva Academy
Based in Mohali, Punjab, Minerva Academy has had a glorious past. Founded by Ranjit Bajaj in 2013, the entity also had its own senior team which featured in the I-League until the 2019-20 season. As many four players from the Minerva academy, including Jeakson Singh and Anwar Ali, played in the 2017 U-17 World Cup in India. In 2018, they created history by winning national titles across all age groups at the same time.
While the club was taken over by RoundGlass in 2020, the academy is still functional and houses 200 young players. Bajaj recently expressed his vision with the academy and their objectives to Hindustan Times. “My academy should be a feeder for the Indian national team, which should be able to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in 2034.”
Incidentally, several highly-rated young players have featured for the academy over the years. Bikash Yumnam, Thoiba Singh Moirangthem, Himanshu Jangra, Hormipam Ruivah, Makan Chothe and so on are some of the notable graduates.
3. Shillong Lajong Academy
Over the years, Northeast India has provided a lot of players to the Indian national team. State-of-the-art academies like that of Shillong Lajong from Meghalaya have provided a platform to many bright young players. Founded in 2007 with the aim of grassroots development, the academy paved the way for future stars into their senior team.
Former head coach Thangboi Singto along with AFC ‘C’ licensed coach Alison Kharsyntiew and U-15 coach Bobby Nongbet were the father figures behind a lot of young players. Singto and Kharsyntiew went on to join ISL sides later on. However, the duo has had a key role behind the emergence of several highly-rated youngsters.
Bipin Singh, Redeem Tlang, Chinglensana Singh, Phrangki Buam, Isaac Vanmalsawma have all come through the ranks at the academy. Moreover, the Shillong Lajong Academy has achieved success through different age-group teams, domestically as well as internationally. Remarkably, the academy won the India leg of the Manchester United Premier Cup (U-15s). They went on to feature in the Inter Milan Youth Tournament as well as the Bayern Munich Youth Cup.
2. Reliance Foundation Young Champs
In 2015, the Reliance Foundation Young Champs academy (RFYC) was started in Navi Mumbai with the aim of creating India’s next generation football stars. With former India midfielder Arata Izumi as one of the coaches, the academy currently hosts 65 young children across five age-groups.
In 2019, RFYC won the Vedanta Youth Cup in Goa against the likes of Bengaluru FC and Tata FA. Subsequently, their U-15 side also participated in the Next Gen Mumbai Cup in 2020. The tournament also featured the youth teams of Manchester United, Southampton and Chelsea.
Graduates from the academy like Muhammed Nemil, Huidrom Thoi Singh, Muhammed Basith PT and so on have already been roped in by various ISL sides. It wouldn’t be long before one watches them take on the big names in the country’s premier league.
1. Tata Football Academy
One of India’s oldest football academies, the Tata Football Academy (TFA) in Jamshedpur has been one of the biggest feeders to the Indian national team. Stars of yesteryear like Renedy Singh, Syed Rahim Nabi, Mahesh Gawli, Clifford Miranda, Subrata Paul have all graduated from the TFA. Meanwhile, Sandip Mandi, Hitesh Sharma, Vinit Rai are three of 28 players currently plying their trade in the ISL.
In 2017, Tata Steel successfully won a bid to introduce their team in the ISL. Thus, Jamshedpur FC came into existence. In addition, the academy struck a partnership with LaLiga giants Atletico Madrid in 2018 to boost their youth and grassroots development. Since 2019, Spaniard Carlos Santamarina is the head coach at the academy.
Furthermore, in 2019, TFA was accredited as a four-star academy by the AIFF. As Indian football expands its horizons, it will be fascinating to see more graduates from the TFA taking centre stage.