Shillong, Apr 28: The Meghalaya Football Association (MFA) has announced further details regarding the inaugural Meghalaya Baby League 2018, preliminary details of which were released earlier this week.
The Baby League is the joint initiative of one of India’s oldest philanthropic organisations – Tata Trusts – the MFA and the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and aims to give children from the age of 4 and up regular exposure to competitive football over a period of six months in order to develop their game, instil confidence and create a base of players that can be drawn on and taken to the next level in their teenage years.
The MFA became the first state football association to sign the Player Development Pact, which will deliver the Baby League concept, in July last year.
The format will be a league-cum-knockout arrangement, with five-a-side and seven-a-side matches, depending on the age group.
The 4-5 years and 5-6 years age groups will be five-a-side with a minimum of 10 players in each team. The 8-9 years, 10-11 years and 12-13 years age groups will be seven-a-side and will have to have a minimum of 12 players per team.
The league will be held on weekends and other holidays, with the possibility of Fridays as well so long as this does not affect the children’s school schedule.
Valid age-proof documents (birth certificate from a CHC, PHC or other government authorities) will be required for player registration and a minimum of 10 percent of a team’s squad must be made up of girls.
Participation is open to football clubs, schools, communities, localities, organisations and individuals who wish to register their own Baby League club. However, each participating Baby League club (also known as a centre) will have to field a team in each age group and must engage the children in regular training of at least two hours per week for at least six months.
Tata Trusts and the MFA will provide grassroots leaders certification courses for all coaches associated with the centres and playing kits for every player and balls for each centre.
All centres will be registered as Tata Trusts-Meghalaya FA Grassroots Centres upon fulfilling the above criteria. Registrations are open and the first 12 that meet all the criteria will be able to take part in Baby League 2018.
Informing the media about the details at a press conference in Shillong today were MFA CEO Arki Nongrum, MFA Treasurer Wanshanbor Kharkrang, MFA Grassroots Development Convener Khlain Pyrkhat Syiemlieh and coach Wadajied Lamare.
Kharkrang said that after the MFA held discussions with Tata Trusts, the latter were keen to go ahead with the Meghalaya Baby League initiative. Although the Western India Football Association had held a Baby League Tournament earlier this year, the months-long league format that the MBL is following is the first of its kind in the entire country and will be a test case that, once completed, will be extended to the rest of India.
“This tournament will help us address the reasons why Indian football is not progressing. We tend to start teaching children football at an age when in other parts of the world the kids are already developing their skills. At the age of 12 or 13 you should already be able to identify potential talent but here we start scouting for players at the age of 14 or 15,” Kharkrang said, a statement that was supported by Syiemlieh, who is also a noted Meghalaya coach.
The target launch date for the MBL is in the last week of May, with the finals in November before the school exams. In that time every team will have played at least 44 matches, giving the children critical experience of playing the sport competitively under expert guidance for an extended period of time.
“We hope to develop Meghalaya into a nursery of talent. Tata Trusts has set up a Centre of Excellence recently in Mizoram and we hope that our kids will be selected for enrolment there,” Nongrum said.
The MFA will also create a player database comprising all the players who take part in the MBL, which will act as an aid to tracking their overall development as well as combating age fraud, a problem faced in all sports across the globe.
(Photo contributed by the Meghalaya Football Association. From left: Arki Nongrum, Wanshanbor Kharkrang, Khlain Pyrkhat Syiemlieh and Wadajied Lamare)