Shillong, Apr 24: In sync with the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) national plan to roll out such competitions around the country, the first Meghalaya Baby League for children between 4 and 13 years of age will be launched next month in a joint effort by the AIFF, Meghalaya Football Association (MFA) and Tata Trusts, one of India’s oldest philanthropic organisations.

There are five age categories – 4-5 years, 6-7, and so on – with space for 12 teams in each category, which means a maximum of 60 teams and several hundred children engaged in regular competitive football, which is seen by the AIFF as key to their development in the game.

The format will be a league-cum-knockout arrangement, with five-a-side and seven-a-side matches, depending on the age group.

Participation is open to clubs, schools, communities, localities, organisations and individuals who wish to register their own Baby League club. Registrations open on Wednesday and will be possible until 5th May.

The MFA became the first state football association to sign the Player Development Pact, which will delivery the Baby League concept. The pact was signed in July last year after the AIFF held a workshop on Baby Leagues in Shillong.

“We are pleased to initiate the Baby League project in Meghalaya in collaboration with Tata Trusts and the All India Football Federation. This project shall serve as a pilot project for a larger initiative to roll out such leagues across the region and country,” MFA president Larsing Ming Sawyan was quoted as saying in a press release issued today.

Tata Trusts has nearly 100 football coaching centres in Mizoram and Manipur and a ‘centre of excellence’ in Mizoram meant for the whole of the North East.

“Many states in the North Eastern region have already got good competitive leagues. But it’s time we went beyond this elite structure and get deeper and target children at a younger age. This will also ensure communities get more involved in this beautiful game as we expect large number of families getting engaged in this process,” Tata Trusts zonal head Biswanath Sinha said.

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