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School Football League: A hunt for champions

School Football League: A hunt for champions
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B<g data-gr-id="49">illed as the</g> country’s biggest school level football extravaganza, the second edition of SSFL will see more than 10,000 children from over 300 schools in Delhi-NCR participating.

Stairs School Football League (SSFL)-2 will be inaugurated on August 26 at the Thyagraj Stadium here and intendeds to identify and nurture over 4,000 football talents across Delhi. The highlight of this year’s championship is the participation of 30 all-girls teams, the organisers say.

This year, trial camps were conducted in four zones in Delhi and eight teams per zone were selected four for U-14 and four for U-17. SSFL-2 will begin with league matches at over 10 different venues across four zones in Delhi while the semi-final and final games will be played at the central venue. All the school teams intending to participate also have to go through the qualifier rounds.

SSFL aligns itself with the FIFA rules of football for boys and girls between 14-17 years of age. Organised by NGO Stairs, Hindustan Football Academy will provide technical assistance to the event.

“The camps were divided into zones so that the maximum area in the region is covered, and every school and every child gets the opportunity to participate. The idea is that every enthusiastic child gets an equal opportunity to play in the league,” says Siddhartha Upadhyay, founder of Stairs. 

“The idea of the league is to creating an ecosystem of football in Delhi and produce champions,” he said.

Upadhyay says this league is a complete win-win for students as they can participate in it with their studies getting affected. He claims that SSFL will change the football scenario at least in the capital in the next three years. SSFL adopts a four-pronged strategy for talent identification that involves nurturing of the talent and making them eligible for representation in national and international competitions. The league intends to develop a well-organised grass-roots youth development program, through an organised championship format that will be committed towards structured professional training.

There is also a provision for special entry of street children and children from underprivileged areas whose selection will be done from grass-roots level and underprivileged section of the society. Flexible packaging company <g data-gr-id="43">Uflex</g> had associated itself with the league in 2014 and has extended its commitment for the next five years. The Directorate of Education (Sports Branch), <g data-gr-id="44">government</g> of Delhi, has also extended its support to Stairs for SSFL-2. Upadhyay says the league aims at ensuring that a promising player spotted is nurtured, trained, motivated and given enough support to be able to make a mark.

“One of the fundamental reasons for Indian football not being able to make a mark in the international circuit is that the country is not being able to produce skilled footballers from the grass roots. We have plenty of talented children in Delhi schools alone, but they hardly get a platform to showcase their talent.
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