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Football in Gujarat Has a Very Bright Future


By Parimal Nathwani

Ahmedabad, Feb 19: I never knew in 2019 when I took charge of the Gujarat State Football Association (GSFA) that there was an undercurrent of craze for football among children in Gujarat. All these years I often found children watching the game on mobile phones and talking about Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Erling Braut Haaland, Manchester, Barcelona and what not! I still took it casually until now.

I was however stunned recently to learn that as many as 4200 children in under-5 years to under-12 years categories have been playing formal football through the various district football associations under the umbrella of the GSFA. The leagues are held in U-5, U-8, U-10 and U-12 categories. Many more of them too might be playing out of the ambit of the GSFA Blue Cubs, that is a different thing.

The All India Football Association (AIFF) launched the Blue Cubs last year and asked the State Associations to organise Blue Cubs league. The Blue Cubs league is for budding football players in the Under-5 to Under-12 categories. 23 District Football Associations (DFAs) have organised (and conducted) the Blue Cubs League in their respective district which commenced on 16th December 2023 and is to conclude on 29th February 2024. 

A criteria of a minimum of 8 teams is prescribed. All matches are played in a double leg format, which means it is a contest between two teams which comprises two matches or “legs”, with each team as the home team in one leg. The winning team is usually determined by aggregate score, the sum of the scores of the two legs.

Overall, 4,200 children participated across Gujarat in this Football Maha Yagna. What is astonishing is as many as 550 children played from Panchmahal district, followed by Surat and Bhavnagar where 450 players each registered themselves. Bharuch and Vadodara district associations mustered 350 and 250 players, respectively. Thus, Panchmahal, Surat, Bhavnagar, Bharuch and Vadodara districts are the top five districts from where maximum number of budding football enthusiasts emerged.

In the remaining districts, players were in the range of 80 to 110-120 on an average. Considering the first year of the Blue Cubs, 4,200 is also not a small number for the footballers in these age groups. Porbandar and Kutch districts will begin their Leagues on 10th February 2024 and the Botad district will also commence it soon.

The DFAs that could still not organise the Blue Cubs League include Ahmedabad, Aravalli, Dang, Dwarka, Dahod, Tapi, Mahisagar, Mehsana, Gir Somnath and Sabarkantha. But that does not mean that children in these districts do not play football!

The intention of the whole exercise by the AIFF (and the GSFA, for that matter) is to translate the children’s new-found craze into the real time football sports onto the ground. Our teams in the GSFA and DFAs are all excited. The GSFA subsidized the League by providing the subsidy @ Rs. 60,000/- to each participating district. Since Adani Group has supported the GSFA, the GSFA’s Blue Cubs League is tagged with Adani’s name.

The state of Gujarat that has produced superb lot of cricketers, from Jasu Patel to Jasprit Bumrah and Vinoo Mankad to Ravindra Jadeja, the days are not far off when new Chhetris (Sunil) and Bhutiyas (Bhaichung) too will emerge from Gujarat, as the Gujarat’s Blue Cubs of today possess potential and prospects.

(Parimal Nathwani is President of the Gujarat State Football Association, MP from Rajya Sabha and Director-Corporate Affairs at RIL)



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