Some things remain constant on every Sunday in Rustomjee Kenkre Champions League- matches starting sharp at 8 o’clock; adults shouting their lungs out for their favourite, toddlers dribbling across mushy green fields; parents showcasing their football knowledge from side lines. Along with all these familiar scenes on every Sunday at Dos Bosco Matunga, one more phenomenon seemed very regular to us- that’s the consistent dominance of FootFun Academy across almost all the age-groups. So we like always, embarked on a wonderful voyage to provide all of you with an insight on what’s the secret mantra of this grass root football academy, fondly known as FFA. Here’s an excerpt of our interview with one of their coaches Mr. Dominic Rosario, an AIFF D licensed coach..

Q : When and with what mission did FFA start off with?

Dominic : This started way back in 2004 when Mr. Savio Rodrigues, an AFC B licensed and a current AIFF grass roots instructor thought of opening up an academy which will cater to grassroots only, i.e- 6-16 years; since he, as well as, we all think that grass root is the most important factor to look after. Footfun Football Academy aims to provide a framework around which an appropriate program of instruction will be created and an evaluation will be done through regular progress reports thus creating a proper development system for budding footballers.

Q: How many centres of FFA are there in Mumbai?

Dominic : We have age classified training in 3 parts of this city. One in B.P.T ground, Reay Road, while other two are in KSA, Cross Maidan, Churchgate and Salvation ground in Dadar.

Q : So how do you start the process of training when a 7 or 8 year old kid takes admission in your academy?

Dominic : See, first of all football is a contact sport. So at the very beginning we try to take the fear of contact or fear of getting hit by a ball away so that the kid actually starts to enjoy the game. After the fear of the game is gone we start with the basics of football that is the ball control. Get your foot to do all the talking-that’s how we teach them.

Q : After the basics how do you progress further in training?

Dominic : We keep 6 players playing together out of which 3 are generally novice or in the primitive stage of learning while other 3 are better than the average, learning for a longer time. So after a while, like for an week or so we keep them practising together in the form of 6 a side, after which the better 3 players are promoted and the less-trained 3 players become senior to another 3 newcomers. This is how we proceed for both boys and girls.

Q : So, how are the girls trained and what are the differences you feel, that girls have with boys in the aspect of football?

Dominic : Even the girls are taught in the same way like boys. The only difference is instead of 6 we keep 4 girls in a group with only one advanced trainee. Just like boys they are also promoted and trained in the same manner. The problem is; for girls it takes a longer time to cause improvement than guys. This is because of their natural fear of getting hit into the face or body as well as stamina and physical strength. Once these all are acquired by a female trainee she can give a male trainee run for their money.

Q- You said the general group formation is like 6 in a bundle? What’s the reason behind it?

Dominic : Good question. This is because most of the tournaments for these type of age groups are either 5-a-side or 7-a-side. Playing with 5 more players excluding the goalie give them a perfect understanding of the mini-version of an 11-a-side game from the age categories.

Q: So, when are they introduced to 11-a-side and how smooth is the transition?

Dominic: See, it’s the same logic. When they are being grouped into 6 kids in every group they play in that formation of 4 midfielders passing the ball to the top two players. Thus they get to know how midfield and forward works. Then from these 4 midfielders two of them (in most case) turn out to have defending traits in them. So in this way they are getting to know the basic positioning sense of 11-a-side situation. We particularly don’t have any strict regulation on when to introduce 11-a-side concept to the kids, but mostly U-10 and sometimes U-12 players are not taught about off sides and all other complexities of the game. As soon as they cross U-10 or U-12 we make them aware that in actual game they has to play with 10 other players. Since in 6- a-side process they learn the positions the transition is really smooth.

Q: What are the general difficulties of training toddlers of this age?

Dominic : It’s definitely the health of the kid. Being a coach you need to keep in mind their health issues big time. Sometimes there is smog, rain, heat waves going around. But the kids will want to play even in those conditions which are not at all suitable for training. Even we keep the parents in the loop so that none of the kids catches cold or fever after the training process. Another important feature that a coach should compulsorily have to train this age group is Patience (chuckles).

Q: Finally how is FFA different from other academies and have managed to sustain their reputation of producing well-trained talents?

Dominic : One of the unique feature is our admission procedure. We don’t admit a kid on the spot. We invite him or her along with the parents for week-long trial in which the newcomers receive the same training as the regular candidates. After the week we cross-check both the kid and the parents on their interest and satisfaction level with the training process before finally completing the admission procedure. Our success have majorly came due to our persistent nature of not looking for too much and devoting to only grass root training, though we have a second division MDFA team. Most of our players after grooming into a complete professional are taken in by big clubs. Even 3-4 of our players now represent Kenkre in 2nd division I League and Youth I-League. It shows that we are on the right path.

As Rosario faded away from the ground with the jubilant kids of his academy, we sincerely hoped that this fun-filled academy continued it’s good work for many decades to come.