According to UEFA, “Grassroots football is football played by the masses at a level where participation and a love of the game are the driving forces”. For the Foundation, grassroots football means organised football for children under the age of 12 – where the young players grow up playing the game locally as well as regularly, in a safe and inclusive environment. 

It is widely known that the best time for children to start playing football is between the ages of 3-5. Let’s take a deeper look at why starting at such a tender age is important. When children start playing from a young age, they start with exploring the game without the guidelines and the rules. They learn to move with a ball with their feet and develop their balance while doing so. 

It quickly becomes a second nature for them to have a ball at their feet. Something which tends to be advantageous in their future as football players. This is because ball coordination skills are the stepping stone to becoming a good player. The earlier a player knows the basics, the more time he/she can spend in learning and mastering new and more complex skills. 

We asked the coaches who fielded teams in the Little Gaurs League for their views on children starting young. “I strongly believe we should start training children starting at the age of 5 and build a strong base so that children can grow with the game and develop their footballing skills as best as possible”, says Gajanand Kauthankar, Coach Green Meadow School Goa and Green Meadow School United teams. 

David Navein. R, coach of Play Goa also feels that sowing the seed of football at a young age and regular training can be beneficial for a child’s future as a football player.

Furthermore, the amount of hours that children put into practice by the time they are playing as teenagers gives them the ability and confidence to execute moves intuitively. As the players become habituated to move with a ball at their feet, they can learn to focus on gameplay and strategic aspects enabling them to be completely aware of the game, their opponents’ weaknesses as well as their teammates’ strengths. 

India is one of the youngest countries in the world. In the 2011 census, the percentage of children under 14 years of age was 29.5%. According to a study done in 2016, only half of the children and youth in India indulge in some sort of physical activity on a daily basis. The others lead a sedentary lifestyle, spending a lot of time watching TV or playing video games, not knowing the importance of physical well-being. There is a very small percentage of children and youth who regularly play football. 

The reason behind this gap is the lack of a footballing culture throughout the country. As former Spain midfielder, Luis García pointed out – “India’s sporting culture needs to be changed in order to improve the standard of the game in the country”. And the best way to build this culture is through regular football programmes starting with children. Indian football requires players who watch the game and play the sport from the early stages of their life. 

We as a nation do not lack talent when it comes to football, but in order for India to showcase its footballing strength, we need to focus on developing the game at the grassroots.

Conversations around developing grassroots football are always fascinating and when you have a diverse set of panelists coming from ISL, I-League, State Association as well as from an International League, the discussion can be extremely thought-provoking.

Nathaniel D’costa, who is a Senior Manager at the Forca Goa Foundation was part of the panel discussing the importance of growing the game at the grassroots level. This chat was organized by 1 Play Sports that prides itself on covering various community-driven sports initiatives across the country.

To start off we had Mr. Shaji Prabhakaran who has written an invaluable book on the foundational level of football, entitled – ‘Back to the Grassroots’. From all his crucial pointers that were discussed in the hour-long chat, what stood out for us the most was the need for different footballing stakeholders to collaborate and pool in resources for the development of the game!

Gary Udhwani, who represents La Liga as the International Business Development, spoke about the value of soccer schools and the opportunities the talented children receive to go to Spain to train – and how these experiences shape up individuals in their career.

Mouriya S from Chennai City FC brought in the Youth perspective, and importantly answered a question around the broadcasting of youth and grassroots level matches; he rightly mentioned that in this day and age, we don’t need an expensive setup for broadcasting local matches. We believe this aspect can be such a motivating factor for young children to get on the pitch as well as their parents to encourage them.

Nathan stressed on the importance of making grassroots football as inclusive as possible and spoke at length about the Foundation’s ‘Girls Score Goals’ campaign – we need to encourage as many girls to play the game and make it an equal playing field. For that to happen, we need to invest in football infrastructure, make the facilities better with changing rooms, washrooms and ensuring security measures are in place as well.

The 1 Play Sports host, Anubhav Jain did a splendid job in getting the panelists to stress the importance of grassroots and as Mr. Shaji mentioned; we are currently at a nascent stage in developing the game in India and various aspects like sports science, analysis, better scouting and coaching have to be looked into if we have to create talent by design and not by chance. 

Click here to watch the entire discussion.

Ganeshpuri is an area in North Goa which has a history of football but currently faces socio-economic and infrastructure issues. We are working on reviving the community and it’s love for the game through our programme. We envision bringing about this change by 

  • giving children access to organised football activities
  • getting the youth involved in community coaching 
  • making the ground a ‘safe space’ for children

For this, we have organised a football training program which takes in kids between the ages of 10 and 12. The programme has 60 kids from 5th and 6th grade who train in 2 batches – 30 children play on Monday mornings and 30 on Wednesday mornings. Each batch has approximately 20 boys and 10 girls. 

Our grassroots coaches Rupesh, Som, Inacio, Nayan and Josline take the sessions in teams of 2 or 3. They divide the ground into 3 pitches – 2 for matches and 1 for drills. The kids are divided into smaller batches and they rotate between the 3 pitches. Furthermore, our coaches have also taken workshops on nutrition to promote healthy eating amongst children.

The Ganeshpuri ground is adjacent to the Ganeshpuri school which all of the kids attend. The PE teachers and Principal of the school understand the value addition which sports provide to the children and are always encouraging them to train. We even have few of the PE teachers from the school interested in taking up community coaching to create excitement amongst children towards the beautiful game. 

Our next steps will focus on organising more competitions and tournaments for the kids. Organised competitions at the grassroots level are scarce and we would like to provide the children with the experience of participating in professionally-run leagues. Our long term focus is to help the community gain access to football-related jobs and help talented children to enroll in Academies /Centres of Excellence so that they can develop their skills further. 

The Association of Indian Football Coaches recently held a webinar series for coaches across all states. It provided Indian football coaches with an opportunity to learn and refresh their coaching knowledge with the help of coach instructors and guest speakers from the football community. The webinar, which was held from 16th April to 5th May was attended by 16 grassroots coaches from the Foundation. It was divided into 8 modules which covered a range of topics from a coach’s role in a team to core football principles and fundamentals, also including futsal, goalkeeping, nutrition and hydration, and first aid training.

The Foundation is always on the lookout to provide coaches with learning opportunities and this series of webinars was a welcome opportunity for the coaches to learn from the best in Indian football. The modules were led by AIFF coach educators Mr. Shekar Kerkar and Mr. Caetano Pinho and every session had a guest speaker. Here’s the list of guest speakers from the webinar.

  1. Mr. Bibiyan Fernandes – IND coach U-16
  2. Mr. Floyd Pinto – IND Coach U-19
  3. Mr. Muthali – Aiff Coach Educator
  4. Mr. Felix D’souza – AIFF Coach Educator & IND GK Coach U-16
  5. Adv. Emidio Pinho – Human Rights Govt. of Goa
  6. Miss Samantha D’Costa – Coach Special Olympics
  7. Mr. Amrit Murali – Manager Technical Analysis, FC Goa
  8. Mr. Prashant J Singh – AIFF Coach Educator
  9. Ms. Maymol Rocky – IND Women Coach
  10. Mr. Clifford Miranda – Interim Coach FC Goa
  11. Ms. Anju Turambekar – TD Dempo SC
  12. Mr. Parth Parasher – Mental Health Coach, RF
  13. Mr. Dinesh Nair – AIFF Coach Educator
  14. Mr. Joshua Vaz – Futsal Coach Educator
  15. Mr. Jovito Lopes – General Secretary, GFA
  16. Mr. Savio Madeira – Head of Coach Education Dept. AIFF
  17. Mr. Jezz Weeks – Coach Educator Premier Skills – UK

We asked our coaches about their experience and received great reviews about the webinar and the speakers. Coach Som said,”I liked all the speakers as I feel all of them explained their particular topics nicely. I gained a lot of knowledge and it was a good experience for me”. All the coaches particularly appreciated when the speakers gave examples while explaining a topic.

While most of the coaches found the session on scouting and talent identification to be most helpful, some also liked the goal-setting sessions and the communication and motivation session. According to coach Josline, the most helpful sessions were the ones on child protection, behavioral characteristics of players, communication and motivation, and goalkeeping. Coach Inacio found the sessions on life skills, planning for development, goal setting, and futsal most helpful. In the nutrition and hydration session, coaches were asked to make systematic charts on what diet coaches should be following after their training sessions.

Coach Yash has already started thinking about how he can utilise the techniques used on the national level to start scouting at the grassroots level. He is trying to come up with a grading system for his players using all his learnings from the webinar. Coach Premson learned about the value in preparing sessions beforehand to ensure he can assess the development of his players. Coach Allain’s learning from the webinar were the different coaching methods used by different coaches who work at the national and international levels.

Some of the coaches also interacted with other attendees from the webinar to exchange ideas and understand how others are coping with the situation at hand. Coach Milagres talked to Bibiano Fernandes and learned that the national teams have been given a written program with reference to their diet and training which they are to follow. Coach Rohan and Allain interacted with other coaches in Goa who are facing similar difficulties. Many are making plans for the future and working on their fitness levels as well.

Bibiano and Floyd also interacted with coach Yash and shared their experience and learning. Both of them are spending a major chunk of their time reading resources about football. They also discussed the impact online mediums and social media is having on players – from zoom classes to Instagram challenges, the football community is doing their best to keep their players engaged.

Coaches are the backbone of football and in the current scenario, this webinar has given many of our coaches an opportunity to discover how they can utilise their time and energy in the most effective manner. It was a great initiative by AIFC and we look forward to more such opportunities.

Benaulim is an area in South Goa with a history of football and footballing culture which is now diminishing. Our programme in the community is aimed at reviving this culture and activating community participation in football. 

The program started with 60 children, but sadly only 2 girls. Kids from the ages of 8 to 14 turned up for the training sessions at Ampem ground. Our grassroots coaches, Clinton and Yadnya, take the sessions once a week in the morning. Sessions start at 6 and run till 7:30 am. The sessions are attended by kids from St. Anne’s Primary school, St. Aloysius High School, and Auxilium High School.

Each session focuses on one of the following – Dribbling, Fitness, Passing, Positioning, Ball Control, Shooting. Training starts with the kids indulging in one of the above-mentioned focuses and ends with a friendly match. After the training the coaches provide a short briefing on the entire session and then then the kids head to either home or straight to school.

This programme has also given us some learnings. We have realised that the success of our program depends on other stakeholders realising the value of what we are doing and taking part. Schools are an important stakeholder and it is crucial to have them on board if we want to create an impact for a large number of children. 

While we want to ensure that kids play regularly, we do not want the game to hamper any other aspects, especially education. Currently, the kids who are playing have informed us that sometimes they are unable to reach school on time after the sessions. We are therefore looking forward to partnering with their schools to try and fine-tune the program timings to best suit the children.

Benaulim is a football-loving community. One can find many FC Goa fans living here. We have received positive feedback from some of the parents about the program. Further, we aim to make the community see value in children playing football and get the youth involved in community coaching. As the talent in this community is abundant, we are developing a plan for children to realize their potential and even go for trials at academies and centres of excellence, to get more focussed training. In the future, we would like to see the community gain access to football-related jobs and we are working towards that vision.

Kiran Niketan is a school for underprivileged children in Zuari Nagar, Sancoale. While the school has recently refurbished its small sports ground with help from a local funder, the students do not have access to sports coaching. Working with the teachers and Sister Berna, who is an extremely supportive and passionate principal of the institution, the Foundation has designed a program for the school to inculcate sports in their students’ lives. Under the programme we are providing the school with

  • football training for the children based on the skill and age levels
  • a community coaching programme for individuals to become coaches
  • life skills training for the children (workshops on nutrition, sustainable practice)

While our long-term goal is to see improvement in the discipline and social skills of the children, the first and foremost reason to conduct such a programme is for children to enjoy playing sports and become active. We want Kiran Niketan to be a shining example of how the overall well-being of children correlates with playing sports regularly and this we believe will encourage other schools to start sports training for primary children as well.

The programme currently has 120 children from ages 6 till 10. We have 2 D-license coaches – Coach Yash and Coach Godwin, training the children. Since the kids at the facility are relatively young, our coaches focus on teaching them the basics of football. They focus on dribbling, fitness, passing, positioning, ball control and shooting. We have also had sessions on nutrition and waste management for the kids.

Each session is 1.5 hours long and starts at 8 in the morning. Students train once a week. 1st and 2nd graders attend sessions on Mondays, while 3rd and 4th graders attend sessions on Wednesdays. After the training, the coaches provide a short briefing on the entire session and then the kids head straight to their classes.

With more than 45 girl participants, the programme has a better boy to girl ratio than some of our other initiatives. However, our prior experience indicates that girls are more excited about training under female coaches and even pick up skills more enthusiastically. Keeping this in mind, we want to empower some of the teachers of the school to learn aspects of coaching that will help us achieve this objective.

The principal, Sister Berna feels that the programme is a great initiative for the children and is one of the reasons children come to school in huge numbers. Even the teachers who help out with the sessions are very supportive of the kids and feel that the kids are gaining a lot from our program. Sister Berna has also shown interest in sending one of her teachers to our Community Coaching Programme.

A highlight of the programme is the discovery of a naturally skilled boy who was scouted by our grassroots coach, Yash. Mohammad Anas was recently introduced to football and has now been selected by Coach Yash for the team he has fielded in the Little Gaurs League. In spite of him being a newcomer, Yash saw his potential and took some time to show him where he was going wrong and how he could improve.

In his debut match for Twinkling Stars, the team was losing 1-0 to Marina FC. Anas stuck to what his coach asked him to do and made simple passes. Five minutes after receiving the ball, he squared it over to the midfielder and the team scored. Participating in the league has helped him improve not just on the pitch but off it as well. His teachers have noticed the development in his communication skills and he has a higher confidence level now. Anas’ father is thrilled to see his son playing so well and has big dreams for him, hoping his son makes a career in football.

Along with developing football, the Foundation also aims to use the sport as a tool for the positive development of individuals. We believe football is a powerful medium for social development and inclusion. Keeping this belief in mind, the Foundation has partnered with The Owl House located in Aldona, Goa. The Owl House is a not-for-profit organisation working on a community service initiative towards helping individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities integrate into society. They also provide support to the families through various interventions.

We hold weekly sessions with them to execute and develop a football based curriculum that can help these individuals learn and develop through football. The programme includes sessions that help individuals to build skills such as – improving their balance and coordination, participating in the world by learning to work in teams, as well as  learning to follow instructions. A crucial aspect of these sessions is tracking individual progress. Along with the team at Owl House we have developed a session-wise tracking mechanism that can help us understand which activities have the highest impact in terms of learning and growth. Our aim is to help integrate these individuals into society through our trained coaches who ensure that they learn and have fun while they play.

Our association with Owl house began in July 2019 and we currently have 10 individuals from Owl House who participate in our programme. Sessions consist of football based games and activities that help develop motor skills and social skills of individuals. The Foundation’s coaches have been trained by Special Olympics and hence understand how to work with children with special needs.

Recently, the Owl House also put up a lemonade stall at the Foundation’s Little Gaurs League which was managed by individuals who are part of the programme. The purpose of such activities is to help raise awareness of their work as well as offer an opportunity for on-ground exposure to the beneficiaries of the programme. 

The Foundation’s long-term goal is to develop a curriculum that can be used by coaches, educators and organisations across the country that work with special needs groups, so that they can utilise the game to instill these valuable life-skills.

Follow and find out more about Owl House on Instagram, Facebook or visit their website.

On 8th March the Foundation organized the ‘Girls Score Goals’ tournament to celebrate International Women’s Day. The aim was to provide girls with a platform to play and compete. While the Foundation focuses on Grassroots development (for children between 5 to 12 years), it decided to organize a tournament for girls under 16 years of age – since there are very few opportunities for them to compete. Everyone involved with the tournament was extremely happy to be on the pitch for this initiative. 

Overall the tournament was a success with 8 teams participating – 7 Star (GFDC Bicholim), GFDC Dona Paula, St. Thomas Princess Pea, Mae de Deus Princess Pea, Saraswat Vidyalaya, Khelegi Toh Khilegi (Supported by Dempo), Dona Leonar Memorial School and Anjuna Celtics. After the group stage matches, teams 7 Star, GFDC Dona Paula, Khelegi to Khilegi and Dona Leonar Memorial School advanced to the semi-finals. 

GFDC Dona Paula played against Dona Leonar in the 1st semi-final. Dona Leonar emerged winners in this fiercely competitive match. The 2nd semi-final, between 7 Star and Khelegi to Khilegi was a draw even after extra time. It was the penalties that finally decided the winner. Khelegi to Khilegi’s goalkeeper, Mamta scored a goal for her team in the last penalty, taking the team to the finals! Teams Khelegi to Khilegi and Dona Leonar played the final match. Khelegi to Khilegi dominated the match and won the final 3-nil. 

We were honoured to have players from the Indian women’s team, Michel Castanha and Karishma Shirvoikar felicitate the winners and be part of the awards ceremony. 

Speaking about the tournament Michel said, “I’m really happy to see that the Forca Goa Foundation took the initiative to organize the one-day tournament for girls. And it is very important to have such a tournament especially for the young ones to get motivated, to gain interest and love for the game. It will also help and encourage them and their parents to see that they can choose football as their career. It was a one-day tournament but girls got an opportunity to play and to showcase their talent. Our Goan girls hardly get to play one tournament in a year, we need to have more and more tournaments like this and even bigger, longer tournaments to increase the standard of women’s football”. 

Her statement reiterates the fact that there is a long way to go before the sport becomes an equal playing field and we at the Foundation call upon other organizations to collaborate with us and create such tournaments in the future.