India can be proud of the Young Champs
Acting in my capacity as ISL Grassroots technical director, I have spent the last four days accompanying the Reliance Foundation Young Champs team on its wonderful tour of Premier League clubs in England.
After almost a year of hard training as part of the Reliance Foundation Young Champs Scholarship programme in Navi Mumbai, this trip is perfect to gauge where the players stand in terms of their football development.
Playing against elite youth academy teams and players who have been part of a structured training programme for several years offers us a better understanding of the talent and potential of the players.
My first assessment after the matches against Crystal Palace, Reading and Southampton is that the Young Champs in recent months have shown tremendous development. They are already competing with their peers in England. My experience as a coach and player tells me that playing these kind of matches really makes them better.
I see a beautiful spot on the horizon for the Hero Indian Super League and its clubs. However, the primary focus must be on good grassroots football infrastructure and then the development of coaches, followed by the introduction of high quality elite youth programmes.
India can be proud of the players and staff from the Young Champs for their achievements after 11 months of hard work. All that effort is visible during this trip and that's a huge compliment. Winning is not the most important objective at this age, although players will always try of course, but for our youth coaches the progression of the players is by far the highest priority and main objective.
Now we head to our next challenges in the Midlands (West Brom), Manchester and Liverpool in the second week of our England trip and I’m really looking forward to it.
Grassroots Technical Director