Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju said that the government is riding on “mainstay” football to make India a sporting powerhouse. It announced the formation of five zonal committees to hunt for talent across the country.
Mr. Rijiju said that the initiative is to be funded by the Sports Authority of India under the Khelo India Programme. It is in partnership with the All India Football Federation. It will be the “most aggressive exercise” ever done. The committees will form 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,” Mr. Rijiju said. He said it during a virtual programme organised by Football Delhi. It was 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 that the talent hunt exercise was conceptualised. The aim is for India to be able to qualify for the World Cup and the Olympics in the next 10-15 years.
Mr. Rijiju said that the ministry was also thinking about giving financial assistance to state governments. It also provides the federation to organise local leagues to give the platform for talent scouting at the panchayat and municipality level.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general secretary cautioned against sending wrong people as scouts in the talent hunt programme.