BHUBANESWAR: With an aim of developing football from the grassroots in the state, Odisha's first Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) club Odisha FC officially inaugurated its grassroots football development program at Sai International School here.
FSDL (Football Sports Development LTD.) CEO Martin Bain, secretary of Sports and Youth Services Department, Government of Odisha Vishal Dev and founder of Sai International School Bijay Kumar Sahoo graced the kick-off meeting as chief guests.
Odisha FC owner Rohan Sharma, CEO Ashish Shah, head coach Josep Gombau, assistant coach Thangboi Shingto and head of Football Development Aakash Narula were also present at the meeting.
Representatives, which include principals and physical education teachers, from 100 schools from all across the state attended the ceremony. Sai International School was also announced as the Grassroots Partner of Odisha FC for next five years.
Shah said: "Our aim is to make football the no. 1 sport in the state and the state of Odisha the no. 1 football state of India. The idea is over time, we will interact with each and every school in the state to spot talent in Odisha. Let’s start the journey together from today.”
Bain talked about his experience in various leagues as a professional and being associated with the game. During the event, he said, “I have met many young people in India and their smile and enthusiasm has struck me. This is the reason I am here. We all are working for one common cause that is to unite and work towards the growth of the sport.”
Expressing his delight over the start of the program, Dev said: "The last three years of the journey in making Odisha the sports capital of the country have been extremely exciting. I am glad Martin is here along with Rohan. We have a club of our own and we are a part of the Hero Indian Super League network. The idea is to strengthen the eco system of the state. The grassroots development program as an area presents to us an opportunity to ensure that kids from the state, who have the potential, can do well.”
As Sai International School will be the partner in this program with the club, Dr Sahoo explained: “Football is popular in almost all the villages of the state. We didn’t have a proper professional set-up but now with Odisha FC and their grassroots program, we have a professional set up here.”
As a part of its grassroots program, the club will organize football festivals, Street Cups, coach education program in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and other parts of the state so that the coaches instruct the players in a proper way and develop them into good footballers in the future.
Baby Leagues in various age groups will also be organised along with the tournaments for the girls as well. The renowned Aspire Academy from Qatar is the technical partner of the club and the young players will be given an opportunity to train there as well just like the previous and current batches training at the academy.