Prime Sports, National (New Delhi), August 4:- Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Monday said the government is riding on “mainstay” football to make India a sporting powerhouse and announced the formation of five zonal committees to hunt talent across the country.
Rijiju said the talent hunt initiative, to be funded by the Sports Authority of India under the Khelo India Programme in partnership with the All India Football Federation, will be the “most aggressive exercise” ever done. The committees will be formed in the next few months.
“We will form five talent scouting committees in the next few months, one for each zone — north, south, east, west and northeast — under Khelo India Programme of SAI in partnership with AIFF,” Rijiju said during a virtual programme organised by Football Delhi to mark the 36th birthday of India captain Sunil Chhetri.
“We cannot go with the usual approach, we have to go deeper in a professional way. It will be the most aggressive exercise we had ever done. We have to find out talented children below 12 years from every nook and corner of the country whether it is northeast, the tribal areas of central India, coastal areas, south or north,” he added.
He said the talent hunt exercise was conceptualised with an aim for India to be able to qualify for the World Cup and the Olympics in the next 10-15 years.
“We have to start now with children below 12 if we want to qualify for the Olympics and World Cup in 10-15 years. I am confident that we can do this. In the government’s plan to make India a sporting powerhouse, football will have to be the mainstay. It cannot be left behind, it’s the world’s most popular game.
“We will pick people who know football like the former players. Of course, the AIFF will guide us. Moreover, this government effort will be over and above those whatever effort is being done and is doing by the AIFF.”
Rijiju said the ministry was also thinking about giving financial assistance to state governments and the federation to organise local leagues to give the platform for talent scouting at the grassroots — panchayat and municipality — level.
AIFF president Praful Patel, who also took part in the virtual programme, said a talent scouting programme which began before India hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017, is still continuing but welcomed the minister’s plan for a “comprehensive” scheme. (MR, Inputs: Agencies).