Indian teens impressed by visit to Valencia

If bringing down foreign strikers from Nigeria and Brazil is the prevailing theme in Indian football, Jefferey Campus of Mumbai’s South Kickers Soccer Academy has scored one against this regulation run of play. Express India reported that Campus picked a group of teenager footballers from Mumbai schools and flew them out to Valencia, instead. "This reverse-junket comes with a rider — those interested need to bear their own steep expenses. But ten days at Spain’s famous football hub comes at a premium."

Campus, a former India junior international, is the country’s only license-holder, eligible to take groups of soccer rookies to Europe’s clubs, and the May 17-27 trip to Valencia was his third such, after previous batch-visits to Chelsea and Real Madrid.

Most European clubs hold youth development programmes during the off-season and offer paid coaching packages at their premises under a Fifa-approved programme, and Campus has been co-ordinating these trips for school boys since 2001 .

The bunch of 14 from Mumbai, who underwent the skills-specific coaching stint at one of the 22 massive practice fields adjoining Valencia CF’s Mestalla stadium, returned home gushing about the facilities and training imparted by coaches Vincent Ahuir and Carlos De Lera.

Accompanied by local coach Walter Perreira, these lads had earlier travelled to Goa for a five-day fitness-conditioning camp so they could absorb all that could be accommodated during the nine days in Spain.

"Since we were fitter after the Goa camp, and the course was a made-to-order one, we asked them to focus on the tactical aspects," Campus says.

Express India reported the "corollary conclusion that the group drew at the end of the tour was that Indians were hugely handicapped in having to learn their early ropes in the heat back home."

"You just sweat so much and spend all your energy trying to last 90 minutes, that you are too tired to concentrate on nuanced skills, said Kaustubh, one trainee."