Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia's involvement with the SESA Football Academy has been crucial in its quest to discover talent says the academy's president Annanya Agarwal.
Bhutia had in May inaugurated the academy, which aims to create the conditions for discovering, creating and building talent for Indian football.
“Bhaichung Bhutia is on-board as our chief adviser and spends a lot of time with us. His involvement has been very critical. He has given us a few big pieces of advice which we've taken to heart and putting it into practice,” Agarwal said.
He said, through the academy, they hope to find a player who is at par with the best in the world, besides playing a role in India can also compete in top international tournaments.
Asked about its vision and objective, Agarwal said, “At the larger scale, there are two objectives — at the macro level help create talent to facilitate India participate in global level football competitions in the far future, and in the medium term, to create one player who has skill sets that match global standards.
“This essentially means one player out of our system who is talented enough to play alongside the best in the world because I think if one person from here can go and do that, it'll open the floodgates and create a belief within everyone that it is possible for an Indian to compete at the highest level in football.”
The academy runs on a residential basis and imparts systematic and scientific training. SFA takes care of the formal education of the trainees during the four-year training period.
Asked what steps is he taking to achieve his goals, Agarwal said, “We are creating a very stable and safe environment for these boys. We do not compromise on anything, be it fitness training, physio, injury management, diet and nutrition. We have created a whole new meal program for the boys.
“We have two goalkeeping coaches, two physios, we will have a head coach who is coming in soon from Spain. We're in Goa and there's so much passion for football. Out of 58 boys at the academy, we're hoping at least 10 make it at the highest level in the national leagues, the national teams, and the state teams.”
The multinational conglomerate, Vedanta — the group behind the academy — aims to build on the legacy of the academy and develop budding players in football from across the nation.
“We are currently executing our plan to set up what we're likely to call Vedanta football schools. We are looking to set up these schools in locations where the companies have a presence. Rajasthan, Punjab, Chhatishgarh and Odisha are four states where we have large operations and access to a lot of talented youngsters.
“These would not be residential academies but would facilitate football for a couple of hours 2-3 times a week.”