Australia to set up grassroots football programme in India

Canberra, April 6 (IANS) Australia’s football federation has announced a collaboration with the Australian government to provide a number of football-based grassroots development programmes in India.

On the back of a number of successful programmes implemented in the Oceanic region, The Football Federation Australia (FFA) and the Australian government will try to replicate the programmes in the Indian state of Kerala, reports Xinhua.

The FFA has said it had held talks with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and the Sports Authority of India to secure access to national facilities in the event that the programme expands beyond the state of Kerala.

According to Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, the “Just Play” programme will encourage young children to take up football as a way to forge positive social relationships and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

“The objective of the program is to give children aged six to 12 years a positive first experience with football while also teaching lessons about important social issues, such as gender equality and sanitation,” Bishop said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Just Play” is a joint venture between the Australian government, the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), Unicef and UEFA Foundation. FFA has been an official partner since the programme was inaugurated in 2009.’

Bishop said the program’s success in Oceanic nations means the template should also be a great success in India.

“The programme has helped over 200,000 children in Oceania learn football skills along with valuable health and well-being lessons. I look forward to making the same positive impact in Kerala,” she said.

FFA chief executive David Gallop said the “Just Play” programme demonstrates positive role that football can play in young peoples’ lives. He said the programme would also deliver Australian international aid across the Asian nation.

“Combining football with an educational agenda is a compelling way to engage with vulnerable children. It’s a way that football is Australia’s bridge to Asia and beyond,” Gallop said.

“The ‘Just Play’ programme has a proven record over the past seven years and I’m sure that FFA’s expertise in coaching and development, supported by the Australia Government’s funding, will produce very worthwhile outcomes in India.”

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