Traditionally, sport has never been considered as a viable career option. While cricket has done a fair bit in changing that, football is still some way behind. With India largely being an academic focused country, school football programmes suffer greatly because talented footballers are pushed away from the sport to focus on studies. But with the changing economics, it’s likely that schools and parents will help children find a balance between sport and academics. The current scenario in India highlights the need for proper training, infrastructure and more, that isn’t allowing the development of existing talent. The right kind of programme will nurture this talent to help them grow into professional football players.
At present, 17 out of 40 players drafted in Indian Super League (ISL) are from North Eastern Region. To fuel the potential of the region, Tata Trusts along with U Dream Football, initiated a programme called ‘Tata Trusts U-Dream Football’ Programme, wherein Centre for Microfinance and Livelihoods, (an associate organisation seeded by Tata Trusts) would help to facilitate and directly implement programmes on grass-root development of Indian football. The whole idea is to improve the standard of football in India and help our nation become one of the leading football playing countries in Asia. Keeping in mind the prodigious talent pool of the seven sisters in the North East, Tata Trusts thought to start with them first.
Looking at the significance for football and the popularity the game is gaining in North East India, Tata Trusts in association with U Dream Football will dedicate its energies in uplifting the tremendous talent in the region. In the process, Tata Trusts together with U Dream Football, intend to bring about opportunities for marginalised young children through an integrated learning programme that addresses their educational and skills requirements.
The core vision is to work towards a potential Football League for India eventually. It is contemplated to be a state level league, aligned with the state football associations and prospective broadcasters, potential sponsors committed to promote the sports, and team owners, which will take a long term view on this. The ecosystem that Tata Trusts and U Dream Football is creating for trained players in Europe and elsewhere will allow many if not all football players a viable career option, long term jobs and a future for Indian football to feature in the global map of the game.