We Spoke To The Technical Head of Grassroots and BFC Soccer Schools, John Kenneth Raj, About The Club’s Newest Squad, the BFC Soccer Schools Elite…
In this new role, what are the changes you hope to bring about to the structure of our Grassroots program?
I think the BFC Soccer Schools structure has been rejigged in a way that the coaches and the players improve. I want the coaches to change their ideology and try to make them understand what is important to develop these players at their level and at their age categories. It is important to have a basic understanding of how to coach children depending on the age group that they are in and I feel that going forward, our BFC Soccer Schools kids will be learning a lot more as they grow older, which is how it should be.
BFC Soccer Schools Elite bridges the gap between the lowest rung and the one above it by giving children competitive exposure.
What we see in BFC Soccer Schools centers are the kind of training that gives children the basic foundation. Now, with the Elite Group, we are looking to bridge the gap between our Grassroots and Youth Academy. These kids should play together as a team so that we can give them exposure in a tournament.
\This is important for them because they know their strengths in a competitive environment. They must know where they lack and where they stand, while playing children in the same age group. We’ve already started our campaigns in the Karnataka State Football Association Youth Premier League and The Community League, which gives our children the best possible opportunities to learn and improve.
From your learnings abroad, what is the difference between youth football in this country and elsewhere?
There is not enough emphasis to the grassroots level in this country. My learnings abroad have taught me that more importance needs to be given at that level. The system needs to change at every club and academy in our country in such a way that more children are benefitting from learning under licensed coaches with a clear idea of how they want the children to improve. It is a long-term process that needs to be changed, so that more children from each age group will progress into the next category and give us more options for players in each academy team.
How important will it be to have a complete youth structure from top to bottom in the long run?
Bengaluru FC is the one club which takes this initiative to build from the Grassroots all the way to the first team. Most other clubs and academies have a shorter plan, which looks for quicker results. Clubs need to look forward in the long run to develop players instead of finding them. Sometimes, you may find a player in two years, but sometimes a player who develops himself from the grassroots will take five or six years and will show more quality. This is the right way forward, as it gives more children the chance to prove themselves.
Do you believe that the Elite team is the final piece in the Youth Development jigsaw?
I believe in the Elite Team philosophy because it is the final piece of the puzzle. There would always be a back up plan which needs to be there for Youth Academies. We need local talent to grow, and the Elite Team gives them the platform to do so. It also makes it easier to spot talent which can be moulded at the Academy level. I feel that it is the kind of squad that helps local players to understand where they can improve and develop themselves. If there are no tournaments or plan for these children to play games, the players will not understand the level at which they stand. This will help the club in the long run, and that is a guarantee.
How is Coach Education important to BFC Soccer Schools?
It is important for coaches to learn and improve themselves because as the sport grows, so should they. This will help them in their abilities, with theory classes and workshops that they will benefit from. Coach Education is something that we take very seriously at BFC. The things they do at other clubs and at smaller academies are the very basics and to be honest, I believe they need to apply their education further to improve in their professions. It is important that coaches are developing themselves because it has a direct impact on how children improve and how they stand a chance to make it to the Youth Academies.