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IKF tie up to allow Bihar’s young talent chance to play international soccer

Children under 16 years of age in Bihar will get an opportunity to train under professional soccer coaches almost free of cost following a tie-up last month between the Bihar Football Academy (BFA) and the India Khelo Football (IKF), a Mumbai-based non-profit organisation, which scouts young talent across India and provides them a platform to showcase their talent at the international level.

The first selection trial after the tie-up will take place at the Patliputra sports complex in Patna on December 5, said Sumit Prakash, founder of the Alpha Sports Academy, a regional execution partner of IKF for selection and training in Bihar.

“To begin with, seven children will be shortlisted after the trial to participate in the zonal final at Kolkata. Among them a few will be selected for the national final either in Kolkata, Goa or Mumbai. Some among the country’s best soccer talents will then be picked up by international scouts for travel to Europe, Germany, Hungary and Spain to begin their professional football journey,” said Prakash.

Santosh Singh, a state-level soccer player and the present coach of the Bihar Football Association, was optimistic about the tie-up.

“The BFA has tied up with the IKF and will extend full support in scouting young soccer talent within the state. We will provide all back-up support related to soccer, including coaching, organising selection trials, arranging for accommodation of players, etc. in the state,” said Singh.

“It’s a good opportunity for children because nothing substantial is happening on the soccer firmament in the state. We are informing educational institutions and district soccer associations about the selection trials in Patna on December 5 so that we get a good number of players to choose from in the under-14 category for boys and under-16 for girls,” added Singh.

The Alpha Sports Academy is a residential sports academy, 20 kms from the heart of the state capital, where young talents will be tapped from different districts of Bihar and their skills honed in football, cricket, basketball, badminton, kho-kho, kabaddi, and table tennis, said Prakash.

Founded last year, the IKF is conducting grassroots talent hunt across 16 cities in India, culminating in Europe.

“We are coming to Patna on a talent hunt in December. We believe talent has to be caught young. At 18 or 19 years, it is too late, so we target children under-14 in case of boys and under-16 for girls,” said its co-founder Phani Bhushan over phone from Mumbai.

“We have international collaborations with Perfect Football, a Spanish company promoting talent in Spain; Palamos CE, the third oldest club of Spain; the Professional Football Scouts Association, the world’s largest scouts association based in UK; and the Pro Soccer Global, Premier League scouts,” said Bhushan.

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The IKF has already conducted events at Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Delhi, Kanpur, Leh, Kargil, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Imphal. After the trials in Patna, there will be multiple tournaments covering Kolkata, Ranchi, Trivandrum, Bangalore, Goa, Mumbai, Pune, Andaman Nicobar and many more cities from other zones, the dates of which will be announced later.

The best players from each zone will be selected and sent for the national tournament. After the finale, the top kids, handpicked by the international scouts, will then travel to Europe to begin their professional football journey.

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