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Sunday, December 15, 2019

After Meghalaya and Mizoram, now Assam kids get their very own baby football league

Every Sunday Guwahati’s Nehru stadium will see a group of footballers (aged 6 to 13) battle it out to win the title of the Greater Guwahati Baby League — Assam’s debut football league for kids

By: Express Web Desk | Guwahati | Updated: December 17, 2018 6:27:03 pm
Greater Guwahati Baby League, Assam Football Association, All India Football Federation Assam’s first ever structured youth football league “Greater Guwahati Baby League” (GGBL) began on Sunday at Nehru Stadium, Guwahati. Express photo by Hrishikesh Chowdhury

Photos by Hrishikesh Chowdhury for Express

In the beginning of this year, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) announced its plan to roll out baby leagues (competitive football matches for kids aged 6 to 13 based on South American and European model) across the country.

Greater Guwahati Baby League, Assam Football Association, All India Football Federation More than 400 kids registered to play and 56 teams participate. Express photo by Hrishikesh Chowdhury

Now, following Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Mizoram and Meghalaya, Assam inaugurated the Greater Guwahati Football League at the city’s Nehru Stadium on Sunday.

Greater Guwahati Baby League, Assam Football Association, All India Football Federation The four competing age groups include 6-7 age category, 8-9 category, 10-11 category and 12-13 category. Express photo by Hrishikesh Chowdhury

The registrations that took place in the weeks preceding the inauguration saw a turn out of nearly 400 kids. “The basic goal of this initiative is to instil a competitive spirit among kids at a very young age, who otherwise do not get the opportunity to do so,” said Ankur Dutta, Secretary of the Assam Football Association, which partnered with local sports management company Sportscraft Management and Guwahati City FC (GCFC) to organise AIFF’s baby league initiative in Assam.

Greater Guwahati Baby League, Assam Football Association, All India Football Federation Maximum kids have registered in the under-13 age groups. Express photo by Hrishikesh Chowdhury

The league will carry on for four months and will see 56 teams participate. “Maximum kids have registered in the under-13 age groups,” said Darick Ranjan Deka, Director, Sportscraft Management, adding that the four age groups include 6-7 age category, 8-9 category, 10-11 category and 12-13 category.

Greater Guwahati Baby League, Assam Football Association, All India Football Federation The league will carry on for four months and matches will take place every Sunday. Express photo by Hrishikesh Chowdhury

“There are girls but till now they do not have a separate team. Only if there are more than 3 players in a certain age group, then the girls can form their own separate team,” said Deka.

Greater Guwahati Baby League, Assam Football Association, All India Football Federation The basic goal of the league this initiative is to instil a competitive spirit among kids at a very young age. Express photo by Hrishikesh Chowdhury Greater Guwahati Baby League, Assam Football Association, All India Football Federation The league also has girls playing — though girls do not have their own team yet. Express photo by Hrishikesh Chowdhury

On Sunday — the opening day — ten games were played. The youngest category (Under-7) saw the GTC Rhinos beat Rajbari AC Sanghi. Said Dr. Razdan Sarim Rahman, a parent of Zedaan Abdur Rahman, 6, one of the kids participating in Sunday’s match: “Such  events organised on a regular basis will not only provide our children to inculcate the importance of sports in their life but also to engage with children from other states.”

Greater Guwahati Baby League, Assam Football Association, All India Football Federation After Mizoram and Meghalaya, Assam is the third to state to have its own baby football league. Express photo by Hrishikesh Chowdhury

 The NorthEast United FC — the professional football club that competes in the Indian Super League — currently has no players from Assam. “We have keen footballers in villages and cities across the state — however, football is still considered an amateur sport in Assam, dominated by institutions like the police, the army, the railways or individual companies. We need clubs to come forward to promote football,” said Dutta.

Greater Guwahati Baby League, Assam Football Association, All India Football Federation The league will be replicated in different districts across Assam next year. Express photo by Hrishikesh Chowdhury Greater Guwahati Baby League, Assam Football Association, All India Football Federation On Sunday — the opening day — ten games were played. The youngest category (Under-7) saw the GTC Rhinos beat Rajbari AC Sanghi. Express photo by Hrishikesh Chowdhury

Dutta also said that the league will be replicated in different districts across Assam next year. “The aim is to identify potential at the grassroots level,” he said, “And at a young age. Messi and Ronaldo started played competitive football at the age of 6. Here boys get that sort of exposure only at 17.”

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