ISL and I-League can exist side by side, says Phelan
Terry Phelan with children during the inaugural session in Dubai.
Kanpur - Phelan is the coach of the Blasters side in the closing phases of the ISL last season
Selecting the right kind of men and women to carry out grassroot level talent scouting and coaching is a challenge in any sport.
Here is one person who can get along with children of any age, from five to the teens, not only on the field but also off it. Meet Terry Michael Phelan, former Ireland (42 caps including 1994 World Cup) and EPL (Man City, Chelsea, Everton) player and currently technical director of the Prodigy Football Academy, the grassroot programmes partner of Kerala Blasters of the Indian Super League (ISL).
The coach of the Blasters side in the closing phases of the ISL last season, Phelan strongly believes that both the ISL and the Indian League (I-League) can exist side by side as it will only help Indian football.
"There is no dearth of natural talent in the country and India can slowly in a planned and meticulous way climb back to where they belonged once a long time ago, and for this we need the expertise available at the ISL and the football federation," Phelan told Khaleej Times, after going through an initiation session in Dubai.
"We have to come to the point straight," he added, "One has to recognise the fact that organisation at the grassroot level is one where painstaking work for at least 5-8 years is required. It will bear fruit as long as quality and modern methodology is sustained."
For a man with such vast playing and coaching experience at the top level, one finds him totally at ease with children and teenagers, going by what we saw at the Bilva Indian School facility - home to the academy's sixth centre after the first five in Kerala.
"Getting coaches for the job needs a lot of weeding. Once the coaching licence is attained, many use it as a means for part time work. We must be careful especially among the entry level coaches who have to show ambition to go up to the Fifa A category within a set time," Phelan said.
"Social media like whatsapp group platforms help, and we keep tabs on all our five centres in Kerala, and now Dubai," he continued.
Phelan said, it was not a boast to say the academy's programme is the only one in India which conducts at least three assessments for each trainee in an academic year, a method which is common abroad.
"India and UAE have the talent to take care of the future. There were over 2,000 to 3,000 kids of all ages coming for our trials at each centre in Kerala. The initial response in Dubai too has been good," Phelan said.
The accreditation and 2-star rating, the highest in India, have paved the way for Prodigy Football Academy to participate in the I-League U16 this season.
Siva Kumar US, CEO, Prodigy Sportz, said: "This is the first time for an academy in Kerala and one of the few in the country to have a direct link with a nationally acclaimed club side. We have to shed the old ways and produce a set of fresh young minds to take over the thought process both at the playing and coaching levels."