By Akhil Rawat
BHUBANESWAR: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Government of Odisha, on Tuesday, November 21, 2023, in the presence of Mr Arsène Wenger, FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to set up the AIFF-FIFA Talent Academy at the Odisha Football Academy in Bhubaneswar.
The MoU between the two was signed by the AIFF President Mr. Kalyan Chaubey and Mr. R Vineel Krishna, Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Department of Sports and Youth Services, Government of Odisha. Mr. Tushar Kanti Behera, Sports Minister of Odisha was present.
In the ceremony, Mr Chaubey said, “I thank the Government of Odisha and FIFA President for his support to Indian Football in every possible way. The result of that is the presence of the legendary Mr. Arsène Wenger today in India.
“His guidance, leadership, technical plan and strategy will help India dream. Let’s take a small step and qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup on merit, and soon the senior FIFA World Cup. I have high expectations through the AIFF-FIFA Talent Academy that we will get our best U-17 team in the coming three years,” Mr. Chaubey added.
Mr. Wenger said, “I’m happy to be in India with my team. I saw the facilities and the quality of infrastructure is great here in Odisha. We’ve realised that among 211 countries, most have no real youth education. The best countries have good education system for young children. So, many children don’t even get the chance.
“Giving every talent in the world a chance is what our programme is about. To identify the talent in India, give good education and good level of competition to make great players. How long it could take, we don’t know, but without education we’ll remain where we are. Our target is to get India back on the map. No country has more rights than any other to be on the top. Our huge effort is to educate children to get them as good as they can be. You cannot start to play football at 15, you need to start at five or six,” Mr. Wenger said.
Mr. Krishna said, “It’s a great honour to have Mr. Wenger here in Odisha. There’s a lot of excitement for your visit. You’ve been an inspiration to football lovers across the globe. We are sincerely thankful to you and FIFA for selecting Bhubaneswar as the AIFF-FIFA Talent Academy.”
Mr. Behera said, “The AIFF-FIFA Talent Academy is the first of its kind in India, which is a testament to Odisha’s rapidly-growing standards as a global sports hub.”After the ceremony, Mr. Wenger watched budding footballers under the FIFA Talent Development Scheme, training at the adjacent ground. He also interacted with the coaches involved in the training.