New Delhi, Oct 25 (IANS) Apart from roping in superstars, the other pivotal reason behind Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona stealing a march over lesser European mortals is their sustained investment in Youth Development.
Treading the same path are Airtel I-League's Pune FC, who are reaping dividends from having a perfect blend of youth and seasoned campaigners in their ranks.
Three points shy from league leaders Bengaluru FC -- who have played a game more -- with ten points from four matches, the only club to fulfill Indian Club Licensing Criteria in the latter's opening year have no less than eight academy graduates in their senior squad.
"This in itself speaks volumes about the functioning of the Youth Development system in place at Pune FC," Academies Director Ranjan Chowdhury told www.the-aiff.com.
"We not only have academy graduates in the squad but also in the playing XI, that too on a regular basis. Pune FC's first choice goalkeeper is an academy product. Then we have (Thongkhosiem) Haokip and Nikhil Kadam who have done really well," he added.
"(Lalrempuia Fanai) Puia has represented India in the AFC U-19 qualifers in Doha recently and is a fantastic talent. I expect him to soon break into the playing 11. With so many players making an impact in the senior team, I think we are heading in the right direction," Chowdhury stated.
Pune FC who finished second last season boasts of Salam Ranjan Singh, Longjam Gobin Singh, Dhanapal Ganesh, and Denechandra Meitei from their academy apart from the three listed above.
While Amrinder has kept three clean sheets from four matches he has played in goal so far, Haokip made his mark by netting his first goal for the senior team against Mohun Bagan.
Haokip is only the second academy player to score for the senior team.
"Every year we have at least four to five players graduating from the Academy to the Senior Team," informed Chowdhury. "We have Grassroots to Academy at Pune FC. Starting from U-10 to U-13, U-15, U-17, and U-19 we have teams. Each team has a total of 25 boys, two coaches and three conditioning trainers," added the veteran Youth Development coach who has produced close to 200 Indian footballers while at the Tata Football Academy
"The U-10 to U-15 academies at the Peninsula Pune FC Academy are non-residential but once they move into the U-17 age-group, we have residential academies. The residential academy boys have a total of ten training sessions a week while the non-residential academy boys train three times a week."