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MSSA's five-a-side tourney gets thumbs up from city coaches

Faster and more technical — That is the verdict of Mumbai's school football coaches on Mumbai Schools Sports Association's (MSSA) five-a-side football tournament, which kick-started on Tuesday.

Action from the Aditya Birla World Academy vs Bombay Scottish match at Kamla Mills yesterday. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Action from the Aditya Birla World Academy vs Bombay Scottish match at Kamla Mills yesterday. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

While the concept of five-a-side football for kids under the age of 10 is popular in European leagues, this is the first time that the school sports body is hosting such a tournament in its 122-year history. A total of 156 teams are participating in this tournament — 40 teams in Division I and 116 in Division II.

Leslie Machado, coach of Don Bosco, said: "Five-a-side is a great format to showcase individual talent. Abroad, they only play five-a-side. The kids enjoy playing in this format and each child has an important role to play. The only issue for us is that we need to adjust since we train according to the 11-a-side format. In this format, you just have one goalkeeper, one defender, a midfielder and two strikers on the pitch," said Machado.

Coach of Cathedral and John Connon, Deepak Narwade, added, "The children get more touches of the ball and everybody has to be alert — this changes the game sense. The style of matches is aggressive in this format. It's also quicker so the kids have to keep switching positions, which helps kids to learn faster at this tender age."

In fact, Aditya Birla World Academy (Tardeo) coach Anthony Fernandes said that the new format was also challenging for the coaches. "It is a great move since we actually play with five players on each team in practice. Playing with 11 players gets too messy. Tactics-wise it forces the coaches to improvise," he said.

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