Silent soccer revolution taking place in Sambalpur football academy
Tucked away some 15 km from the bustling western Odisha town of Sambalpur a dream has taken shape in the form of the Sambalpur Football Academy (SFA). And the vision has begun to make an impact in the life of youth in the State. The Academy, established on a sprawling 18-acre property very close to the Hirakud Dam , is complete with three full-sized playfields, a state-of-the-art gymnasium, accommodation for nearly 100 boys of different age groups, a dining hall, a well-equipped kitchen, class rooms, a three-storied guest house, swimming pool and a well-stocked store room. Apart from learning the nuances of the game, the boys are given compulsory education in a Government-affiliated school.
Having come into existence on November 22, 2008, the SFA has made a marked difference to soccer in the State. Two of the leading clubs of Cuttack have based their teams on the SFA boys. More are eyeing talent from this academy.
The SFA, an initiative of former minister, player and a soccer lover Jaynarayan Mishra, is run on self-finance and donations. The MLA of the area for the third successive term, Mishra’s project is contributing to the development of tribal welfare. As much as 90 per cent of the boys are tribals of the State. The rest of the trainees are from Jharkhand, West Bengal, Assam and even Manipur.
The teaching staff is all from the region which helps the boys and the faculty to interact better. Apart from well-qualified coaches, headed by technical director Sanmoy Basu, the academy has a doctor, a dietician and administrative staff to run the programme smoothly.
“We spend close to Rs 1.5 crore per year on the project. The biggest problem we face is lack of exposure to our boys against better teams. We are planning to send our boys to Kolkata to play in local league,” Mishra says.
After organising a football festival for schools in the area, the academy coaches fan out to other States to choose boys for the academy. At present, there are 25 boys in the under-14 group, 24 in U-16, 20 in U-19 and 20 more senior boys.
Pritam Singh is presently in the National under-17 camp in Goa. Sayed Viju Oasim, Golak Pradhan and Prakash Naik were part of the group of Indian boys trained at Arsenal and A.C. Milan academies. The best boys play for Samaleswari FC, owned by the academy.
“The main objective is to produce top-class players through promotion of the game at the grass-root level. In less than four years we have successfully created the right atmosphere in and around the district and the State,” the chairman of the SFA points out. “We need to tie-up with an I-League side. The rest will fall in place.”
The SFA is indeed the beginning of a silent soccer revolution.