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Sunday, 1 April 2012

Dream May Turn 'Real' For Kerela's Young Footballers

Of all the foreign clubs Kerala's sports authorities got in touch with to help promote football in the state, Real Madrid was really prompt. "We had written to clubs across Europe and Latin America," said Amith Mallick, director, sports and youth affairs department, government of Kerala. 

A representative of the world's richest football club by revenues was in the state a few days ago to hold talks with sport officials to set up a coaching centre. 

The Spanish club, which sets up social-sports academies worldwide through the Real Madrid Foundation (RMF), was looking to do in Kerala what it has already done in countries such as Egypt: offer training to children in the age group of 10-14 for a fee.

"The state has to offer and upgrade infrastructure facilities and Real Madrid will offer football training for a fee," Mallick told ET, adding that the government is yet to enter into an agreement with RMF whose representative Manuel Tarreno Rodriques held talks this week with the state government and the Kerela Football Association (KFA). 

Mallick said the club has insisted on "certain benchmarks", and that include dietary provisions and additional facilities such as dressing rooms in the stadium chosen as the venue for football coaching. 

Real Madrid has multiple coaching packages on their menu. One of them, said Mallick, promises a "thrice in a week" training for selected young players. 

"The coach (from RMF) will train camp participants twice-in the morning and in the evening-on all these three days," Mallick said, confirming a few details of the talks Rodriques had with the state sports minister KB Ganesh Kumar, him and officials of the KFA. 

"Now we are waiting for them (Real Madrid) to get back to us. They placed their demands and it shouldn't be a problem for us to meet them," Mallick said, emphasising that Rodriques was "quite impressed" by the quality of play of footballers in the age group of 10-13. 

"He was of the view that in that age group, the quality of the game is on a par with global standards. It is later that they fall behind," he quoted Rodriques as saying. 

He neither disclosed the pay package for the coach nor the modus operandi of selection of players, saying "things are still at a preliminary stage". 

While a few local media reports said Real Madrid was in talks to set up "a football academy" in the state, Mallick said, "It is how you perceive it." Essentially, the club will offer training services and the state government will provide infrastructure and pay for the coach's services. 

Rodrigues flew down to the Kozhikode airport in the state and was taken to playground in Malappuram before making it to Kochi. 

The state authorities have suggested a few likely venues for the coaching centre: Panampilly Nagar Sports Hostel in Kochi and Areekode in Malappuram and a stadium in Alappuzha. 

RMF's mission is to educate youth through sports. RMF Social Sports Schools specifically target disadvantaged children at the risk of social exclusion. 
There are critics of the move, both in and outside Kerela. While a few football aficionados see 'no point' in bringing a few overseas coaches, Simon Kuper, renowned author of Socceronomics, is skeptical too.

"I think Kerela would do much better to spread soccer training as widely as possible, for instance, offering fields and coaches for anyone who wants to play rather than payng Real Madrid lots of money. just get lots of kids playing, train some coaches in basic Dutch or German methods, and some kids will become very good, but Real Madrid won't give Keel a magic fix" Mr Kuper told ET

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