The odd journey on a road less taken – A Football story


Amidst big names with bigger resources and facilities, a local football club from Mumbai with local boys in their lineup, have smashed all doubts to reach the final rounds of All India Youth leagues

On 10th of June 2018, when AIFF accreditated Youth Soccer Academy to play youth league (junior I league), the decision before the board was whether to conduct open trials or to go ahead with the academy boys. The club decided unlike other academies to go ahead with the homegrown boys who were a part of their academy system.

‘We are Gonna play well and we are Gonna Do it Together’.

While the players were skeptical at first and doubted their ability to compete on that stage against some of the renowned clubs in Mumbai, the Head Coach and Academy owner encouraged them stating, ‘We are Gonna play well and We are Gonna Do it Together’.

Everyone soon started working for the same goal, by training thrice a week. The players faced academic challenges as it was the 1st time when all the kids were in 12 months programme.

Academic goals and motivation from Seniors

Often times the club would indulge their U16 players alongside the younger ones, this was done to ensure the U13 understand to importance of their academic performances. The humility, teamwork and spirit of helping each other throughout are something that the club believes in.

Budget Difficulties and Team Development

Coming up with a budget for a yearlong Academy programme was one the toughest point for the club. Unlike other big budget teams with available facilities or sponsors, YSA had to have a meticulously planned budget that involved charging reasonable fees from Kids to make sure the club met its costs while also ensuring that players, who could not afford were trained for free. When the season went overboard by 4 months, the owner JP put forth his own personal savings and was very clear that the game should not suffer.

Even before the season started the club ensured that the kids went through a proper preseason routine and during the season were given feedbacks and worked on areas of Improvement. Club recorded most of the games and provided constant feedback to kids through Audio-Visual sessions. Kids were constantly iterated and corrected on eating and sleeping habits which subsequently improved their fitness and performances. Parents alongside kids were briefed about the importance of eating right.

National Qualifications and Performance

When the news of qualification to nationals came in everyone were jubilant but it was a challenge for us nonetheless as most of the parents had planned vacations (May 1st to May 20th). So unlike all the teams who came for nationals with their squad strength of 30, YSA went with just 16 players. Two of the players had just recovered from illness and despite the club offering them an option to stay back and recover they choose to travel for the team. It was a difficult for the young players staying away from home but they were all motivated for success and it soon came when the club bagged the SP Cup tournament held in Goa in 1st week. To ensure kids are not getting homesick the club allowed parents to meet them and conducted lots of fun sessions at pool and beaches to keep them mentally fresh.

A bittersweet final Round

Going up against teams with strong experienced Academies, high scouting network and players from all over India, it was always going to being difficult. YSA’s three opponents were, FC Madras – a side that scored 48 goals during their Zonal qualifications, FC Goa – the academy of Indian Super league outfit and Sudeva FC – one of the Delhi’s top clubs.

In the opening game against the free-scoring FC Madras, YSA strategically stalled their attacks and held on to resolute defence for a goal less draw. In the 2nd game, against FC Goa – a team whose senior side has been renowned for its free flowing and attacking football, showed a similar technical capability on field as they went in to the break with a goal lead. However, a quick pep talk from Coach rejuvenated the spirits as despite conceding another goal via defensive lapses, YSA came out all guns blazing to score a goal from 25 yards through a free-kick. Luck favoured the goans as despite continues attacking moves, the club failed to find the net again, hitting the crossbars numerous time while the players failed to capitalise on couple of goal-line opportunities.

Despite the loss, the performances drew applause from the goan fans as everyone on the stands clapped for the young kids from Mumbai. Even officials acknowledged the team spirit and fight. In the final game against Sudeva FC, YSA once again conceded first to go 0-1 but this time the comeback was stronger and soon after going 0-1 down YSA came up with a 30 yard screamer to make it 1-1. This was followed by 2 more quick to win the game 3-1. Despite failing to qualify for the semi-finals, the club was overwhelmed by support they received from the stands. Unknown football fans cheering for this bunch of lads for their fight and football display on field.

Passion, Proper Goals showing results

Throughout the journey, Jaywant Pathak who started the team ensured that the developmental goals were always ahead of results. The club emphasized more on player growth and good football and wanted to inculcate these philosophies from a young age.

In the youth league, the club faced teams, who were richer and more experienced but with sheer passion and grit the club garnered results on the back of some quality player building.

We had said a year back – ‘We will play Good Football and we will show how its done’ and we have shown it. Whether its football or life there is no quitting and constant focus is on Development and growth.

‘Better Everday, Greater Everday. Go YSA’

– Jaywant Pathak

For fixtures, group standings, feature articles, match reports and tournament stats on Hero IWL, visit here–> Hero Indian Women League

Also Read: Maurya Foundation to conduct trials for MDFA 2nd Division Campaign
Also Read: Hero IWL Semi-final 2: Free Scoring Sethu FC face resurgent Central SSB 
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