AIFF Roadmap: Decoding the vision that will decide the fate of Indian football – ESPN Australia


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The All India Football Federation (AIFF) released their long-term plan – titled ‘Vision 2047, The Indian football strategic roadmap‘ – on Saturday, covering the areas the governing body wants to act on. Its core is a ‘national football philosophy’, which the AIFF says will be science-and-data driven, and details what needs to be done to achieve it. There’s no timeline given for this but the main goal for 2047 is for India to be in the top 4 in Asia across both men’s and women’s football. That’s too far off to consider objectively at this moment but there are smaller, measurable, steps as well.
There are six three-year plans, with the first one (2023-’26) explored in detail. We pick out the key points mentioned in this plan, which is divided into 11 different sub-heads, and highlight out the most measurable objective.
• The targets set for the NTs appear to be a lot steeper than the others. Achieving top 8 in Asia in women’s (currently 12) and top 10 in Asia in men’s (currently 19) by 2026 will take some doing. As will qualifying for the men’s and women’s U17 World Cups on merit.
• Lack of playing time and a lack of a promotion-relegation based pyramid structure are clear problem areas here, and they appear to be addressed. The target for 2026 is a 5-level league pyramid for men (14 ISL teams, 14 I-League teams, 12 I-League 2 teams, 5 zonal leagues with 12 teams each, 36 State championships with 10 teams each) as well as a 4-level pyramid for women (10 team IWL, 8 team second division, 30 teams across 5 zonal divisions and 20 state championships with 6 teams each). These concepts appear sound and exactly what the domestic league structure has been crying out for.
• All member associations to adopt good governance practices; which includes a focus on women’s football. The idea behind this is that the “quality of football at the national level is heavily interlinked with the improvement of football at state”… which sounds reasonable. The need for support of State FAs was mentioned earlier in these pages.
The buzzword in football management appears here too; but it also seems to be backed with tangible goals. The idea is to have a grassroots project which reaches 3.5 crore children by way of having programmes in 100 villages and tribal initiatives in 10 districts. This seems a fairly low number, considering the size of India, but that could be a good thing: small, grounded steps are the kind of bottom-up approach that these pages have always advocated.
• The document acknowledges the problem that the number of coaches (per citizen) is well below global benchmarks. As it does the lack of quality coach educators. The AIFF has a set target of 200 educators (from current 58) and a whopping 25000 coaches across all levels (from current 324). This, though, tallies with their stated objective of increasing the level of engagement across levels/age-groups.
• A lack of competitive game time is a real issue for young players. A clear target of 35 matches minimum for boys and 14 minimum for girls (all age groups) is a first step in addressing this. As is the target to have 100 teams in each Elite Youth league category. The pyramid structure of talent ID also seems reasonable; with clubs scouting at a district/city level, state associations at a state youth league level and AIFF using data-driven scouting at the Elite League level.
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• Much of the focus seems to be on driving clubs to have a more structured youth football system, the most easily measurable of which is that at least 20% clubs are to have a residential academy.
• The Federation acknowledges that the issues related to refereeing in the country are the result of a lack of a solid system (no sustainable livelihood, no coaching support). While they target an increase in referees, and referee-coaches, the key objective here is the implementation of 5 CORE (Centre of Refereeing Excellence) centres that will help train youth referees. There appears to be a solid ground-up approach in place here.
• There is mention of a mega football park, 1 Smart and 2 FIFA Standard stadiums, but they key point is here the full operation of the National Centre of Excellence (for men and women). Many countries – including England, Germany, Belgium, Serbia, Morocco, Qatar — have benefited directly from a singular national centre and a well-run NCE could prove pivotal for India.
• While an ‘innovation hub’ sounds interesting, as does the release of a “football application” for all stakeholders, the key point here is the implementation (of a first version) of an analytical tool for scouting at an elite level. Football is embracing analytics and all that it brings at a rapid rate, and it’s imperative that India not be left behind.
• Increasing AIFF’s finances is an absolute must for the above 10 points to be carried out in a structured manner, and they have targeted a steep 500% increase in revenue over the next three years.
As with any self-respecting roadmap, the AIFF’s says all the right things at all the right times. There are a few areas that remain unaddressed (like how players can become part of administration and decision-making from the ground-up), but the key pain areas seem to have been identified and plans set out to be address these issues.
Putting tangible numbers to each of these objectives also allows the federation to be accountable — which is of vital importance. Now, it remains to be seen how the AIFF goes about implementing it all.

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