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On the run up to the FIFA Under-17 World Cup Football that is going to be held for the first time in India from 6-28 October 2017, the government is keen to promote football as a popular sport amongst the Indian youth and get more children into playing football. Mission XI Million, launched by the Union government in February 2017, aim at training 11 million children in football by October 2017.
Considered as the largest school outreach programme, this initiative is expected to reach out to 12,000 schools in over 32 cities across all 29 states. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strong interest in sports and his vision to develop football as a popular sport has led to the initiation of this programme that would enable the youth from all parts of the country to partake in football tournaments, both national and international.
Prime Minister has mentioned several times, both in his speeches as well as through his Mann Ki Baat, the importance of creating among the youth an interest to play sports. In his Mann Ki Baat aired on 27th March 2016, he explicitly mentioned the need to promote football among the youth of India and how he wants “football to be played in every nook and corner of the country”. It is his vision for promoting the game that was taken forward by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports by the Mission XI Million initiative that would expand the reach of football to all parts of India and gain prominence amongst the youth in the coming years. Rural India would also get an opportunity to play football and get trained for world-class football events.
Furthermore, the initiatives like this would also increase the talent pool that the country can make use of for various national and international tournaments. The purpose is not only to bring India laurels by winning international football tournaments but also to develop a society that adopts active and healthy lifestyle through sports and games. Sports like football would eventually help the youth of India learn the importance of teamwork and cultivate sportsman spirit. For this, the government plans to work closely with the school principals, sports teachers and parents of the children, and encourage them to make their children play football on a regular basis. As a prelude to the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, several programmes will be organised to promote football including seminars for teachers, school-level events and football festivals until September 2017.
Apart from developing a sports culture in the country; bringing Indian youth more closer to football and making it a “sport of choice” has been the primary goal behind the programme like Mission XI Million. Several initiatives like the Khelo India Programme, Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) and Olympic Task Force Committee are all steps in the direction of improving India’s prospects in international sports events and bringing medals to the nation in different sports categories.
The government is prioritising FIFA Under-17 World Cup Football as a milestone in its sporting history as it is a golden opportunity for India to show it to the world its capacity to develop world-class infrastructure facilities and ability to organise sports events of international stature.
By empowering its youth and preparing them for playing an international game like football, India can hope to become a formidable force in the field of sports with increased infrastructure and participation by youth in prestigious international sports events.