November 2017

'Tata Football Academy is the nurturing ground for Indian football'

Tata Steel has a long association with sports, especially football. It set up the Tata Football Academy (TFA) in Jamshedpur in 1987 to nurture and train budding footballers in a scientific way. TFA has contributed to the development of over 200 football champions over its 30-year history; 135 players have represented the country, while 19 have led the national team as captains across various age groups. Building on the legacy, Tata Steel recently won the bid for the Jamshedpur franchise of the Indian Super League (ISL) and established the Jamshedpur Football Club (FC) in June 2017. The club is set to make its debut at ISL 2017.

Mukul Vinayak Choudhari, CEO of Jamshedpur FC, speaks to about TFA’s contribution to Indian football and the strategy behind the selection and training of the Jamshedpur FC team for ISL 2017.

How is Jamshedpur FC shaping up for its first season of Indian Super League (ISL)?
The team looks to be in good shape and overall balanced. In the ISL draft we picked up some of the best Indian talent available to create a very strong core group. Since then, we have signed on some experienced foreign players, namely Sameehg Doutie, Kervens Belfort, Memo and Tiri. All of these players have had prior experience of playing in the ISL and we believe they will create a fantastic atmosphere and add a lot of value along with their Indian counterparts.

  • Steve Coppell, a Manchester United legend with successful stints in training top Premier League clubs, has been roped in as the head coach
  • Sunil Bhaskaran, vice president corporate services, Tata Steel, and chairman, Tata Football Academy, along with Steve Coppell, and others unveils the Jamshedpur FC logo
  • Experienced foreign players such as Trindade Goncalves are also part of Jamshedpur FC's playing XI
  • Around one-third of the Indian players in Indian Soccer League are ex-Tata Football Academy cadets

Can you share some information about your top picks at the Mumbai ISL draft and how they will add value to the team?
The technical team did a good amount of homework on the strategy for selection of players across positions. We managed to get the desired pick with a good mix of youth and experience.

We picked Subrata Paul, an ex-TFA cadet and an Arjuna awardee, who has consistently represented India for the past decade. Another obvious choice was Indian footballer of the year 2016, Anas Edathodika. We added three current Indian international players with Bikash Jairu, Sumeet Passi and Jerry Mawihmingthanga. Our other picks such as seasoned midfield maestro Mehtab Hossain and Ashim Biswas brought in the desired experience while Siddharth Singh, Shouvik Chakraborti and Farukh Choudhary brought in the element of youth to add balance to the squad.

Overall, the draft went according to our plans and we look forward to working hard during pre-season and gearing up for the tough ISL campaign ahead.

What does the former Manchester United star Steve Coppell’s presence as coach mean for Jamshedpur FC?
Steve Coppell, a Manchester United legend, has an exemplary track record as a player and coach. He has had successful stints with top Premier League clubs like Crystal Palace, Manchester City and Reading as head coach over the past two decades.

In his first season as manager in the ISL 2016 with Kerala Blasters, he successfully led them to the finals. His in-depth technical knowledge, vast experience in professional football and past performances made him an easy choice as the first team coach.

Steve Coppell’s values align with the ethos and philosophy of the Tata group and, with this synergy, we look forward to performing on the field.

Jamshedpur has a rich history of football. Can you take us through the journey of Tata Steel’s association with sports — and football — over the years?
Tatas have been associated with sports and particularly football for decades. Our association with the beautiful game dates back to the early 80s when we hosted Super Soccer Series with participation from top international football clubs such as Sao Paolo (Brazil), Bochum (Germany) and PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands). Tata Football Academy was launched in 1987 and is the nurturing ground for Indian football, having produced 137 players who have represented India at various levels, out of which 19 have captained the team. TFA has been the feeder to Indian football and we look forward to continuing to be so.

Many cadets from TFA have made it to the national level and several are currently playing in the ISL. Can you share some of the notable success stories?
We were happy to see that around one-third of the Indian players in ISL are ex-TFA cadets. Our goalkeeper Subrata Paul himself is a TFA cadet and is representing India at the highest level for many years. As mentioned earlier, TFA has produced 137 national players, to name a few, Renedy Singh, Clifford Miranda, Syed Rahim Nabi, Rino Anto, Robin Singh, Udanta Singh, Narayan Das, Pronoy Halder, Alwyn George, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Deepak Mondal, etc. Many of these players are playing currently for the national team and have gone on to win all the major national competitions like the ISL, I-League, Federation Cup, IFA Shield, etc. Recently, Alwyn George and Udanta Singh went on to play the AFC Cup 2016 finals.

What is unique about the talent-identifying and nurturing process at TFA that creates world-class football players?
At TFA, we scout across the nation and identify talent purely by merit. We hold multiple rounds of screening through our panel of qualified coaches who scout for players based on our pre-defined physical and technical parameters. Over the following four years, we provide the cadets with comprehensive football training with an additional thrust on their nutrition and fitness in order to transform them into top football professionals by the time they graduate. Additionally, we place special emphasis on their education and overall personality development.

From a football academy to having its own ISL team now, Tata Steel is associated with the game at every level. What are the plans for the future?
The long-term vision is to engage the tribal community and develop local players who would go on to represent the club and the country. With Jamshedpur FC, we look forward to enhancing the overall football eco-system encompassing grassroots football, youth football, women’s football, age group tournaments, local leagues, coach education, referee education, infrastructure development and implementing best practices in administration, management and operations. The people of Jamshedpur and Jharkhand will ultimately be beneficiaries of the ISL.