By Sushmita Goswami Guwahati, May 8 (PTI) Catch them young – this was the underlying mantra when kids barely four years old descended on the football field in Guwahati to take on peers, all below 12 years of age, in a league especially curated for them.
The Greater Guwahati Baby League, already in its third edition, ended on Sunday with the participation of about 600 children who vied for trophies in four categories – under-6, u-8, u-10 and u-12.
The youngest kid who participated in the third season of the Greater Guwahati Baby League was three-and-a-half years old.
The league was first held in 2018 and 2019 but there was a hiatus of three years due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had 64 teams competing in this edition, which started on March 26 and was played on Sundays. Our league is approved by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and the Assam Football Association (AFA),” Siddhartha Sankar Deka, director of Guwahati City Football Club (GCFC), the organiser, told PTI. The concept of baby leagues was initiated in South American countries and the AIFF has also adopted it, Deka said.
“Ours was the first entity to start it and such tournaments are now being held in different parts of the country,” the GCFC director claimed.
From providing match exposure to the kids to giving the coaches a chance to hone their team management skills further, the baby league has been beneficial for all stakeholders, Darick Ranjan Deka, also a director at GCFC, said.
“The children get an opportunity to test their skills at a competitive level at a young age. It also helps the development of their team spirit.
“The coaches also benefit as it gives them professional exposure at management,” Darick added.
The baby league has been a stepping stone for budding footballers from the city with quite a few of them already getting into reputed academies for professional training.
Bhaskar Bora and Mogendra Brahma are two such proud fathers whose sons had played in the first edition of the Greater Guwahati Baby League and then got admitted to the Reliance Foundation.
“The basic concept of competition, which is crucial for success for a sportsperson, was introduced to our sons through this tournament. It gave them valuable experience,” Bora and Brahma, who have now become regulars at the baby league fixtures, said.
Organising a baby league is no child’s play as extra care has to be taken to ensure that the kids enjoy the game while also imbibing the competitive spirit in them, a GCFC functionary said.
Most clubs are not coming forward to organise baby leagues as it needs special handling, Bidhan Das, Youth Development Programme head of GCFC, maintained.
“It has to be properly and thoroughly planned to ensure that no technical difficulties arise. If not done correctly, the kids may even get demoralised,” Das said.
The duration of the play and the size of the field have been changed to ensure that the children can play the game according to the requirement of their age group.
“We have to be mindful of the younger lot and provide a taste of serious competition to those who are older. We have to maintain a fine balance,” Darick said.
Source: PTI News