UP’s Mission Football goes off the radar?

Croatia’s Igor Stimac was appointed the head coach of the Indian football team last week, but much before then the Uttar Pradesh Sports Directorate had made big plans for government-run hostels and colleges with the support of Croatia Football Federation in 2015.

It was at the instance of the then chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, himself a football player and fan, that the sports directorate spent several lakh rupees on hosting three Croatian experts in the state capital for training coaches and officials, and sent a three-member panel, including director (sports) RP Singh, to the European nation to explore the possibility of developing the game in UP.

But the priorities seem to have changed since 2017. Now, coaches at the government-run hostel and colleges are clueless about that ‘mission football’.

“Now, we are more focused on hockey and the hosting of a match between India and France women’s team at Gorakhpur recently was part of that strategy,” said football expert SK Singh.

Forty-one coaches, including 25 ad hoc ones and 148 inmates of three hostels at Bareilly, Varanasi, Faizabad and three sports colleges at Saifai, Gorakhpur and Lucknow attended the three-day football training programme in December 2015. Ivan Kepcija, Tihomir Sadibasic and Ivan Perlec conducted the programme and promised to extend all possible help to the coaches.

The programme was decided following a discussion with technical director of Croatian Football Federation, Romeo Jozak during his visit to state capital. A few of the coaches had to borrow shoes as they hadn’t played football for many years, whereas a few looked desperate to chew tobacco (pan masala) even on the ground.

The three Croatian experts were surprised to see almost all the coaches showing reluctance to run for the ball during the delayed drill session (approximately 20 minutes).

“I couldn’t follow anything as I don’t know English and they (experts) spoke in English only,” said one of the government coaches posted at a stadium in the state capital.

He also confessed to not having a laptop or the latest knowledge about the game.

“We have a routine set up of football training. Almost all the 18-20 permanent coaches on the rolls of the UP Sports Directorate have no incentive to think about football. We are just enjoying our salaries as no one expects us to put in the extra effort for the development of the game in the state.”

The views of the coach corroborate the fact that ever since the football hostel concept came into existence in the late 80’s, no player from the three hostels has played for junior or senior India team. “In fact, the government is running a ‘charitable trust’ where youngsters after enjoying free food, lodging and education, remained focused on jobs and nothing else,” he said.

“Not even a single coach has technical knowledge of the game. Neither they want to improve nor anyone forces them to do so,” said a senior directorate official on condition of anonymity.

He, however, suggested that instead of wasting money (around Rs 90,000 per year) on 81 inmates in the three government hostels, government should scrap the football hostel scheme as they were useless and coaches are drawing hefty salaries without doing anything.

First Published:
May 28, 2019 15:37 IST

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