Football is the second most popular game in India after cricket and there are some states in our country that consider domestic football to be more popular than domestic cricket.
Although there has been no official survey or reports which indicate the number of football fans in the country, but football has always had a fair share of fans and viewership. English Premier League, the top-level club football league in the UK claims to have 155 million or 15.5 Crore active fans from India. ISL regularly gets around 22,000 stadium attendance for each game on average.
The game has, however, suffered a lot in popularity due to a number of reasons, lack of proper marketing, establishment as a sustainable career option and less scope of grassroot development.
With the introduction of Indian Super League in 2014, things began to look better and brighter for the beautiful game in India and we, as a country began to see better awareness with more youngsters developing love for the sport.
But, let's not get away from the reality that there is still a long way to go. The biggest gap is the lack of opportunities for the players as there is absence of a pan-India youth structure. This makes the path towards becoming a professional football player an unstructured and opaque one.
Thus, the demanding need to create more as well as widespread opportunities for these footballers to play at a global level has given rise to an initiative like India Khelo Football, IKF.
India Khelo Football (IKF) is a Non-Profit initiative created with an objective of “Making football a viable career option for Indian Kids”.
In order to achieve this objective, IKF is creating a structured and transparent path for kids who wants to become Professional Football players by integrating grassroots football with professional football.
IKF does this by creating a platform where kids can showcase their talent at city level trials and selected players moves to pre-finals and finals where ISL and I-League Scouts select players for the clubs and apart from that, top 7 players get international exposure for a month for skill improvement and getting an extra edge.
As of now, there is no structured pathway for young kids to become a professional football player. With IKF, the aim is to provide a structured pathway for a player to not just grow but evolve as a professional player as IKF provides opportunity in various parts of India by organizing football trials.
The selections in these trials are carried out by IKF scouts who are certified PFSA scouts. Scouting is one of the strong forte of IKF as the methodology is developed by PFSA (a UK based organization) and IKF together.
For each and every player, a 'four corner assessment sheet' is created that provides a very distinctive identification of players trait that even helps them get an idea about what a player needs to improve on.
Apart from the above initiatives, a vast network of regional execution partners has been established by IKF to organize an yearly scouting trial to make sure that every kid gets the opportunity to advance in a democratic and transparent manner. The registrations for this season have already begun and is receiving a great response from players.