Girls and boys bring out your football jerseys and spikes; it’s time to kick some ball. The Premier India Football Academy (PIFA), which claims it has been conducting the oldest and most professionally run league for children since 2005, is all set to kick off this year’s leagues.
Their Junior Football League (JFL), which accommodates five to 12 year-olds, was launched last year to introduce and encourage younger children to the sport. For senior children (13 to 18 year-olds) they have organised the Premier Football League. Although girls and boys will play together at the junior level, the senior girls have a league of their own this year.
Another exciting addition to this year’s leagues is the venue. They will be playing the matches at a brand new astro turf pitch. “The turf, which is at JBCN International School in Parel, meets international standards. It is on the school’s terrace, but is extremely safe. They have made sure to build a 20 ft mesh so that the ball doesn’t go out,” says Anjali Shah, director, PIFA.
The leagues are open to both individual players as well as teams. Individual players must sign up before September 10 and teams before September 15.
“We also encourage parents to get involved. Especially in the case of the JFL — parents are most enthusiastic when their kids are at that age,” adds Shah. Parents are encouraged to take on the roles of coaches and managers for their teams.
“What we stress on the most is fun. We don’t want the league to get too competitive and ensure that parents don’t pressurise their kids too much. The children must play to enjoy themselves. No yelling is allowed on the sidelines,” asserts Shah.
All the matches will be played on Saturday morning, starting November 10. The JFL matches will be in the morning and PFL in the afternoon. “Saturdays are when most parents are relaxed and aren’t working. They prefer this to taking their child to the mall. It also helps keep children physically fit and active,” she says.
Once registrations close, the practice sessions will be held once every week. Participants can go to any one of the 14 PIFA centres across the city, including Dhobi Talao, Gamdevi, the race course, Bandra, Andheri, Santacruz, Powai and Juhu. The academy, which has been around for 10 years, has 25 coaches who work on the child’s individual skills, and introduce them to positional play, which enables them to play as a team in the league.