GUWAHATI, May 18: Meghalaya chief minister Conrad K Sangma, on Thursday launched the “Dare to Dream” Academy – a residential football academy, a joint initiative of Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools and the Dream Foundation.
The plan is to have a three-year football training and development programme.
As a part of the programme, Dream Foundation will also be working towards holistic development of the athletes and provide them with lodging, nutrition, education, coaching, training, equipment, apart from opportunities to participate in National and International tournaments.
The selected athletes will receive their academic education at the Army Rifles Public School, Shillong, and Vedas International School, New Delhi, while they complete their training programme.
“This is a promising start and I am certain that this will bring out many talents from across the region,” the chief minister said.
Former captain of the Indian Football Team Bhaichung Bhutia said that Meghalaya has a lot of potential to produce national and international-level players and this is evident from the recent achievement when players from the state advanced to the finals in the Santosh Trophy Cup.
He, however, stressed the need to nurture and identify these talents from across the region, in the grassroot level.
Speaking on the future of football in Meghalaya, the Chief Minister said, “If you look at the overall picture, even now, whether it’s under-17 or at the senior level, a large number of players are from the Northeast. We have to realise that a large number of these talents have come out almost raw, on their own with no proper support and infrastructure. But in spite of these, a large number have made it to the national team.”
“Imagine if we are able to provide the scientific and proper training and infrastructure, it will be a game changer. Our future is huge,” he added.
Furthermore, Sangma said that there is a lot of talented youth in sports – in different disciplines. “In the coming years, Northeast will be able to contribute immensely to the overall sports sector in the nation. I hope that our players qualify for the national team and qualify for the world cup and maybe even win the world cup. Yes, our dream is big but we are starting with small steps,” Sangma said, optimistically.
Sangma highlighted the government of Meghalaya’s efforts in identifying sporting talents through the STAR Talent Identification program. Over the past few years, approximately 5,000 children across Meghalaya have been scientifically tested on international standards. The talent identification program aims to recognize promising athletes at a young age and provide them with curated training programs to enhance their skills.
“We hope that a sportsperson from Meghalaya will win a medal for the country in the 2036 Olympics. To realize this vision, the STAR Talent Identification Program was launched to identify sports talents and provide quality training based on international standards. We have also initiated the Coaches and Athletes Cash Award Scheme to encourage their development,” said the Chief Minister.
A short exhibition football featuring young budding footballers was held on the occasion in the presence of Conrad and Bhutia who also played along with the young players.