A Closer Look At The Rise Of India’s Top Football Academies

With over 1.4 billion residents, India should be a powerhouse on the international football scene. However the sport often has to play second fiddle to cricket and other national sports like hockey, which has held back the development of young players and the international element of competitive football for decades.

Those days are changing. More high level coaches and amateur sports enthusiasts are picking up the whistle and utilising free online, customisable timetable templates to manage and develop young players across the country at a host of academies that have been opening at an exponential rate.

Here are some of the best academies and the training systems in place that are set to elevate India as a genuine global force in the world game.

All India Football Federation (AIFF)

The AIFF is the governing body of football in India and has been since it was founded in 1937, gaining FIFA affiliation in 1948. The primary function of the AIFF is to manage association football leagues and teams along with the Indian national side, while it also manages the ISL and I-League, the premier domestic football competitions in the country.

As part of its operations, it runs a host of academies around the country including the Mumbai Regional Academy, Kolkata Regional Academy, Goa Regional Academy, Goa Elite Academy, Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools, Indian Tigers Football Academy and Kolkata Football Academy.

The AIFF’s mission is to capture young talent aged 8-25 years, and promote the sport of football. These academies develop their skills in regional areas, schools and major cities through training programs that will enable them to compete at an elite standard on the global stage.

South United Football Club

Bengaluru’s first privately-owned football club was established in 2012, with a focus on young athletes and the development of local talent to give the best junior footballers genuine pathways to the top. 

The club features a dedicated football academy with state-of-the-art training facilities that include cutting-edge fitness regimes, finely curated pitches and all the resources young footballers need to excel. With holistic training programmes and unwavering dedication to fostering player growth, SUFC is regarded as the gold standard of football academies in India.

What sets SUFC apart from other academies is a focus on creating strong young men and women, not just strong footballers. Those who are enrolled in the academy are taught the values of teamwork, resilience and discipline along with ongoing mentoring off the pitch, as well as on it.

Former Manchester City and Chelsea player and Irish international team member Terry Phelan is the sporting director at SUFC. He said the pathways being provided to young Indian players would translate to greater success on the international stage in the long run.

“We need to give them some time, things don’t happen overnight. Indian football has come a long way,” he said.

“(The) All Indian Football Federation (AIFF) has a roadmap for how to change the situation. FIFA is also working on technical centres and development centres now, so it seems to be going in the right direction.”

Making A Difference Off The Pitch

Another point of difference is the psychological readiness programs that include mental conditioning exercises, goal-setting workshops, and stress management techniques to ensure young footballers remain at their peak while under pressure, and make the right decisions in football – and in life. 

SUFC also has a community mission to provide access to their first class facilities for underprivileged children from all over India, running fundraisers and other programs to create pathways, and ensure social privilege is not the price of entry.

JSW Bengaluru FC Academy

The Bengaluru FC High-Performance Camp is held at the Inspire Institute of Sport (IIS), which is at the cutting edge of player training and development. It’s designed to prepare young footballers to be competitive in international competitions. 

One of the major benefits of taking part in the Bengaluru academy is undoubtedly the access players get to the IIS facilities, spread across 42 acres and featuring sports science facilities, learning centres, physiotherapy and recovery and a host of other facilities used to develop India’s Olympians.

Identified talent take part in multiple field sessions daily, attend AV sessions for leadership and team building, and learn about the value of a healthy, nutrient-rich diet to become an elite player.

Minerva Academy 

There is no doubt that cricket is India’s national sport, which makes it challenging to entice young players to take up football instead of focusing on their batting and bowling. 

Minerva Academy helps expose children to the best of both worlds as a multi-sports club that includes training facilities for both cricket and football – as well as futsal – that are often shared, so young players can train and develop their skills to become talented, well-rounded sports people.

But – the proof is in the pudding. The academy’s under-13 boys side won the world’s largest international youth football tournament, The Gothia Cup: The World Youth Cup, in 2023. There have also been a host of graduates who’ve gone on to play for the Indian national side.

Also Read: Sandhiya ready to take Myanmar head-on in their own den

Also Read: 133rd Indian Oil Durand Cup to kick-off on July 27, four cities to host the season opener of Indian football

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