Taking baby steps: FC Goa’s Little Gaurs League presents blueprint for youth development

FC Goa have over the years won admirers far beyond the boundaries of Goa thanks to their attractive brand of football in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) that has left everyone entertained.

The club from western India have further added to their credibility over the last few years by bringing a number of talented youngsters from the state through the ranks while maintaining their eye-catching style of play.

The Gaurs are among the leading clubs in India when it comes to developing the youth and the reasons for that go beyond a robust youth structure at the club which is led by technical director Derrick Pereira.

The club through the Forca Goa Foundation have been continuously exploring the depths of grassroots football in the state with a solid platform in the shape of Little Gaurs League (LGL), an extensive youth-based football league that has already completed three seasons.

In the 2021-22 edition that recently concluded, a total of 91 different teams and 744 children participated across four different age-group categories – U-6, U-8, U-10 and U-12 categories apart from an U-12 category exclusively for girls.

The league also hosted mixed team matches to promote gender equality.

LGL was conducted across three venues in the state: Sinquetim Sports Complex in Navelim, Rose Arena in Vasco and the Monte de Guirim Ground in Mapusa to make it accessible to children from all parts of Goa to participate.

“The League is one of FC Goa’s key strategies in developing footballers, increasing game time for young players helps hone their decision making ability and match skills,” read the mission statement for the LGL.

While the focus was to provide a safe environment to play football and build a pathway for the kids to play for FC Goa, there were a few notable success stories that the league’s third division delivered.

Piyush Sawant’s goalscoring exploits for his team Goan Champs earned him a contract with FC Goa’s U-13 team. He went on to take part in the inaugural JSW U-13 Youth Cup at Bellary, where FC Goa took on Bengaluru FC, RoundGlass Punjab FC and Sudeva Delhi FC in a four-team tournament.

"FC Goa aim to be a football club where the first team is vital part of the project but not its entirety. One of our long-term ambition is to build upon the footballing culture in the state. And that can't happen without involving the whole community,” FC Goa’s technical director Derrick Pereira said.

"Development at the grassroots level is very important for Goa to continue as a footballing hub. Exposure to football at a young age is vital for developing quality players for tomorrow. The Little Gaurs League is one of such initiatives from the Forca Goa Foundation and FC Goa as it provides children a good platform to express themselves and develop their abilities from a young age,” he added.

In another first, Valaina Fernandes, who emerged top-scorer of the U-12 category, earned a chance to train with FC Goa’s women team.

“This year we managed to improve on game infrastructure and give more game time (double-legged matches as compared to single rounds previously) in order for children and coaches to develop. Coming back into the game after a two year pandemic induced hiatus was always going to be full of challenges, but with the support of the club, our sponsor Tata Motors, and the GFA, we managed to register 91 teams with 745 children,” said Nathaniel D’Costa, Forca Goa Foundation’s Senior Manager for Community Football.

The fourth edition of the youth league is expected to be held in November 2022.

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