Mission XI Million, a joint initiative of the Indian government and the All India Football Federation, has taken football to 1 million children and aims at reaching 10 million more!
The Indian government is trying to take football to every nook and corner of India just like cricket, the most popular sport in India, played in every gully and muhalla.
The government launched the programme Mission XI Million, in collaboration with the All India Football Federation (AIFF), this year and within a span of a few months, the programme has reached over a million children across the country.
On the sidelines of the FIFA U-17 World Cup to be hosted by India this year, the government is striving to make the most of the occasion and motivate children to take up the sport.
A first of its kind initiative, Mission XI Million aims at encouraging children to learn and play football. In the months leading up to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in October, Mission XI Million plans to reach out to children in over 37 cities and 12,000 schools from across India.
In the last four decades, India has declined from being one of Asia’s top soccer teams to the 163rd position in the FIFA rankings. The country with a huge population of children and youngsters is packed with potential and all that’s needed is motivation, mentorship and direction — all of which the government is trying to achieve through Mission XI Million.
The programme is working in three phases- seminars, in-school activities and city-level football festivals.
“The first phase is to work with school principals and sports teachers and encourage and incentivize them to make children play football games on a regular basis. We conduct seminars, where principals and sports teachers from different schools are brought together and given a brief about the programme. What they need to do further, is focus on the game in their schools that can be adapted to different field sizes and conditions, with special emphasis in small sided games (4 vs. 4 and 5 vs. 5). That gives children confidence to learn and allows the play even if the number is small,” says Aniket Mishra, media manager of Mission XI Million.
The second stage is then conducted by the principals and sports teachers in their schools, wherein they conduct regular in-school activities and train children in the game. As the third step, the government conducts football festivals in every city and brings together all the children in that cluster.
The idea of the festival is to pique the interest of the children and make a quick assessment of the status.
“This is a moment of absolute joy for us. Reaching 1 million kids that have been engaged with football in the country is a massive milestone. Mission XI Million is really transforming football in India, and a testament of that is that the one millionth kid is a girl that comes from a government school from one of the corners of the country – Tadong [in Sikkim],” said Praful Patel, president of the AIFF.
So far, 45 seminars have taken place in 22 cities in over 3,132 schools, according to Aniket. The target is huge and the Mission XI Million team is trying its best to achieve it.
“Though we are not yet conducting seminars in rural areas, some of the seminars have seen teachers travelling from villages to attend the seminars. Like, the seminar in Patna saw a group of teachers coming in all the way from Digusarai. School teachers from Mohali, Panchkula, Ambala, Sirsa, Faridabad, Mahendragarh and Rohtak attended the seminar in Chandigarh. The idea is not to create professional football players yet. The idea is simple – to pique children’s interest and introduce them to this wonderful game,” says Aniket.
To know more about the Mission XI Million, visit the official website here.