Mumbai: In its centenary year, the Western India Football Association (WIFA), the governing body for the game in Maharashtra, has embarked on an ambitious programme of producing 5,000 coaches certified by the All India Football Federation over the next three years.

They, in turn, would train footballers at the grassroot level all over Maharashtra, a release from WIFA said.

There are currently 30 districts affiliated to WIFA, with more than 2000 clubs, 1500 school teams and around 500 college teams playing the sport. But there are only 55 qualified AFC (Asian Football Confederation) coaches.

The programme has been launched to bridge the huge disparity between the qualified coaches available and the football teams and players.

A pilot project of the Coach Education Programme for grassroot level, brainchild of WIFA CEO Henry Menezes, has been initiated in Maharashtra and on successful implementation it would then be taken to other states of India.

AIFF Director of Coaching, Gabriel Joseph, who will be conducting the programme, said that the Coach Education programme for grassroot level would be the first of its kind conducted by the federation.

"The pilot project will first create a pool of instructors from the available AFC 'A' and 'B' license holders in the state. Thereafter these instructors would be eligible to train coaches under them," Menezes said.

"In the next five years, we hope to see Maharashtra as one of the top football playing states in the country, for which we need a strong base from which to pick and choose.

"This pilot project will help unearth quality coaches from among former players of repute, who would be then used to train youngsters at the grassroot level," he added.

He also said that this project would help in creating uniformity in the coaching methods.

"This project will also ensure that there will be uniformity in the coaching methods and standards used at the grassroot level with periodic reviews and evaluations of the systems, being used," said the former India goalkeeper.

Menezes felt that most of the coaches at the grassroot level were untrained, which is a matter of concern as it hinders the progress of footballers as compared to the metros and bigger centres.

The AIFF-certified coaches coming out of this programme would ensure that the same coaching methods and systems would be available to football players in all districts of the state, according to the WIFA CEO.

(Agencies)