2008-07-02 21:51:51 UTC
NRI doctor takes up junior footballers' cause
New Delhi, July 2 (IANS) Earlier this summer, when India were
engrossed with Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket to think of
anything else, an Indian doctor came all the way from the United
States to take a closer look at the under-16 footballers.
The young team made news by reaching the Asian Football Confederation
Cup finals by winning the qualifier last November at Damam and their
feat touched the sports enthusiast in Francis Saldanha.
Saldanha, 57, was impressed by what he saw at their base in Goa, got
in touch with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and offered to
arrange for a six-week exposure trip to Ohio, West Virginia, where the
NRI anesthetist runs ambulatory surgery center in Charlston.
The lads are now on the way there for a six-week spell of training
during which they will also figure in half a dozen matches with
university and club teams.
A 1976 graduate of Stanley Medical College, Chennai, Saldanha,
describes himself as a lover of sports who was "never competitive by
Like so many other lovers of sports Saldanha was pained to see talent
"drift away from sports for a variety of reasons, including financial
constraints, lack of government support and training facilities. I
could go on. It is easy, of course, to criticise and yet remain
Saldanha also has played cricket, among other games. So why did he
choose to offer his help to Indian football?
"Football is truly a world sport. Every country wants to make it to
the world cup. But India can barely hold its own even among
neighbouring countries. Which brings me to Indian youth football,"
"The under-16 Indian youth team provides a glimmer of hope. Its
successes are the result of better organisation, funding, training and
dedicated coaches. I have watched its progress last year, which
prompted me to get in touch with the AIFF and offer to host the team
on a visit to the US. I spent a week in Goa and their fitness and
skill were very impressive."
In Saldanha's opinion "perhaps the appointment of Colm Toal as
technical director and chief coach of u-14, u-16 and u-19 teams may
represent a critically important decision of the AIFF."
Saldanha further hopes to establish a relationship with the AIFF and
individual track and field athletes and coaches. "Perhaps well funded
entities in India and abroad, many of whom are already active in
similar endeavours, will continue to assist these youths," he says.
Meanwhile, Indian soccer aficionados will hope that the under-16 team
which coach Toal has taken to West Virginia will return home as
improved footballers, better prepared for the stiffer tests in the AFC
Cup finals in Uzbekistan in October.