In a bid to develop and promote football at grassroot level and spread the game across the state, the Western India Football Association (WIFA) has signed a deal with Sporting Ace Pvt Ltd (SAPL), a sports management company, to infuse Rs 100 crores into the sport over the next 10 years.
Among other initiatives announced by WIFA at a press conference in the city yesterday, the most prominent were: the beginning of Asia’s biggest talent hunt for football across all genders and age groups, the revival of the 122-year-old Rovers Cup, an intensive coach and referee development program, and pension schemes for former players in need.
Souter Vaz, Hon Secretary of WIFA, said: “It (the deal) will involve holistic development of football across all verticals. Football has a huge fan following across Maharashtra and there is a need for this interest to be channelised in the right direction with the best facilities and rewards (given) to those who excel.”
WIFA CEO Henry Menezes added: “There are 25 million kids in the age group of 6–17 (in Maharashtra).
“We understand the huge challenge we face in bringing these 21.5 million kids onto the football pitch. Also, 92 per cent of these kids are non-English speakers and that is where the potential lies.”
Noting that FIFA’s and AFC’s websites are available in multiple languages, Menezes said that communication should be multilingual. In December this year, WIFA will launch what they call “Asia’s biggest talent hunt” for kids across the state.
“Almost 30–40 per cent of revenue generated by WIFA will be spent on the youth. We’ll be launching a state-level tournament, called ‘Mahayudh’, across 30 districts in Maharashtra,” said Menezes, who plans to involve 50,000 kids across all age groups across a three-tier format — intra-district, inter-district and inter-region. Participation will be free with no limits on the number of teams.
Menezes also announced the revival of the 122-year-old Rovers Cup, the first edition of which was played in 1891 and was scrapped 12 years ago.
“It was once the pride of Maharashtra and we wish to bring it back,” said Menezes, adding that the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has agreed to dates (July 27 to August 11, 2013) with a total prize money of Rs 1 crore.
WIFA’s initiatives for Maharashtra
>> Mahayudh: Asia’s biggest football talent hunt for youth offering attractive cash prizes and trophies.
>> Revival of the 122-year-old Rovers Cup.
>> Extensive coaches and referee development programmes.
>> Investment into all district football associations
>> Case-by-case pension scheme for former players (Olympians, Asiads, national and state-level) who are in need