Grassroots football taking momentum in Joda

Joda : Rapidly growing small towns of India are garnering focus in the sporting scenario in the country. India’s next generation of sporting superstars come from remote, humble and impoverished villages of unknown India. The likes of Baichung Bhutia and Dangmei Grace have put the nondescript places in India on the world football map with their odds-defying feats.
With the government also focusing on promoting rural talents, there is gradual shift in the sporting culture. Tata Steel Foundation has taken the onus to further the initiatives of the government to promote rural talents in the field of sports.
Among its various interventions taken up in its operational areas around Joda to promote sporting talents, setting up of a football coaching centre has been of the most significant.
The main objective of this initiative is to give these youths from tribal communities a platform to showcase their talents at state and national levels. Moreover, this can also serve as a means to their livelihood in future. Presently, training is provided to 50 youths from the nearby areas in U-11 and U-13 categories.
Badal Mahakud, a popular football player from Odisha, has been coaching these youths since the last six years. “Over the years, sportspersons from tribal communities have represented their state and later on India in their respective disciplines. Hence, there is a lot of potential in these belts. We need to explore and garner such talents,” said Mahakud.
To inculcate interest among the children, football kits having jersey, socks, shoes, water bottle, football, plastic marking hurdles etc. are given to the participants. An overall conducive environment has been created for seamless and efficient coaching to the enrolled children.
The initiative has really shown result as some of them have been a part of the selection camp organized by the district sports authority and many have gone on to play national-level matches.
Manisha Naik who started her practice at the age of 13 have played around 10 national and international matches. “I had seen football matches on television and since childhood have been fascinated by the sport. When I got a chance to learn the sport, I did not want to let it go. I plan to take it up as a career,” said Manisha.
Nishi Bodra who has been training since 2015, says, “I have played at the district level and my aim is to play for the national team someday,” she said.
Apart from providing coaching in football, sporting events are also hosted regularly. These apart, youngsters are also provided extensive training in mountaineering. A number of sports festivals are also hosted in collaboration with the state government in various schools.