The All India Football Federation (AIFF) had started the Golden Baby League project back in 2018 with the help of FIFA’s development programme in order to encourage young players between the age group of 6-10 to take up the sport.
The AIFF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of leagues, Sunando Dhar, revealed the reason why AIFF took the project of Baby League two years back.
“If we look at the developed football countries by the time the players are 13, you will know whether they will be able to make it professionally or not. Out here, the likes of Bhaichung Bhutias and Sunil Chhetris start playing football seriously from 15,” said Dhar during an online chat on grassroots development.
The CEO also suggested that the Indian FA went through case studies in countries similar to India economically but were doing better in football before creating the Baby Leagues.
“We intentionally tried to lower the age. Catch them young and help them grow. We started at the U13 level and we realised that we have to start much earlier. That’s what when we did research, we looked at developed countries that had economic issues similar to India or infrastructure problems but were doing better in terms of football.
"We started with Golden Baby Leagues and one such country is Uruguay. They don’t have proper fields, you can play on the streets or anywhere else. It is about letting them play and enjoy the game. That is when the Golden Baby League was introduced.”
Dhar explained the progress the Golden Baby League made in the past two years and how it captured the imagination of budding footballers in the country.
“Over the two years, we have seen a huge jump. In the first year there were 21,000 players both boys and girls and last year the number went up to more than 32,000.
“The 2019-20 season, of course, couldn’t be completed because of the pandemic but despite that, the total number of matches that were organised were nearly 33,000. When you look at it, it is phenomenal. But considering our population, much more can be done,” Dhar said.