New Delhi: The AIFF Football Masters Course could be a game changer for football professionals in India. Announced in January by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the course takes a multi-campus approach with the students spending time in New Delhi and Mumbai before going to Spain for a month where they will be working with Spanish second division side Cadiz FC.
The rising popularity of sports leagues in the country since the advent of the Indian Premier League in 2007 has led to the growing popularity of the field of sports management and AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said that the federation felt now would be a good time to roll out a course specific to football.
"It's fairly recent," Das told IANS when asked how long the idea has been in the works. "It's in the last three or four months that we thought that a course like this will be useful considering the growth of the sport in the country and the interest level amongst many youngsters who are ready to give up their traditional jobs and come into sports, especially football. At this point in time, we are just testing waters but the initial response across India has been pretty good."
One round of entrance tests have already been conducted with two more left but Das says that planning for the course is very much in a nascent stage. Explaining the structure of the one-year course, Das said, "The first will be at the AIFF headquarters itself; about three to four weeks where the structure of the federation, the committees and the way the governance is done will be explained.
"After that they will be shifting to St Xavier's College in Mumbai where there will be theory classes and practical sessions at most probably the Cooperage or some other ground close by. There will then be a one-month course in Cadiz, Spain where all the operations of how to run a club will be explained. Cadiz CF is leading the second division Spanish league table and hopefully they will come to La Liga next year. So it will be a good experience to students to understand how a top division La Liga club operates," he said.
"At this point of time we have just given a basic structure. The Cadiz leg is being taken care of by the club. In Delhi and Mumbai, the students have to take care of their stay. We will see how the response is, if some scholarship becomes necessary we may discuss accordingly. At this point in time we have no definite strategy and we'll see how it goes," he said.
Football managements courses are rare in Asia and with India hosting the FIFA U17 Women's World Cup this year, Das said that this will be a good experience for the students. He also said that while no I-League or Indian Super League clubs had suggested for the start of something of this nature, the reception thus far has been good.
"All the clubs realise the need for football professionals is becoming very necessary now. All of them have taken this development quite positively," he said.
"There was no push from anybody as such but we as a federation, seeing the way that sport is growing and the need for people to understand the governance structure of football, laws of the game and so on alongwith how a football club is run, how the federation operates; with all these things we felt that the course is relevant."
The basic qualification is that the candidate should be a graduate and there is an entrance test. It is not like the ones you give for IIMs or anything, just a general test to understand the person's abilities and interests. Initially we thought that between 40-50 students would be a good target to have. The first test happened on Feb 23 where I believe there were between 25-30 people. There will be two more tests and the registration for the tests is much more but some of the people wanted more time to prepare for it. There will be two more tests and we want to finalise the list of candidates by July.
The federation in that way is much better placed than anything else because of the kind of relationships we have with clubs federation and the confederation. So we will wait and see what happens in the first batch.
Das said that as far as placements go, the AIFF is best placed to get students good opportunities because of their relationships with international federations and clubs. He also said that learning Spanish will be included in the curriculum. "Spanish is one of FIFA's official languages and learning the language will also open up a lot of doors to get placements outside in Europe or Latin America. We feel the course will be a game changer for football professionals," he said.