Tata Steel to start its own football club

Amitabha Das Sharma Kolkata | Updated on March 12, 2018

At a time when Indian football is seemingly drifting away from corporate focus, one of its oldest patrons from the private sector has decided to strengthen its presence in the sport.

Tata Steel, one of the top-10 global steel companies, has decided to step out from a purely youth development role and set up its own club to promote the young talents it has been fostering for the last 25 years.

This decision comes as a welcome departure from the trend where corporate outfits such as Mahindra United and JCT Mills (Phagwara) have already disbanded their teams.

I-League dreams

Tata Football Academy, the premier soccer school of the country, will soon be joined by a team that will participate in the top national club tournament, I-League. “We have decided in principle to constitute a club that will comply with the club licensing guidelines put in place by the All India Football Federation (AIFF),” said Mr Sanjiv Paul, Vice-President — Corporate Services, Tata Steel Ltd. “The idea is to enforce a mechanism where the company will have some say in the control of the players graduating from the TFA,” he added.

Tata Steel is arguably the highest spender on youth development and has two other highly successful academies – for archery and athletics – apart from TFA, which is the oldest in the fold. “The company’s sports policy is driven by the principle of empowering people. It started from the time our founder Sir Dorabji Tata sponsored the Indian contingent in the Olympics in the early 20th century,” Mr Paul said.

“Founded in 1987, the academy has trained around 200 players, out of whom more than 120 have played in the national team,” says senior manager sports, Mr M.R. Bhalla, the man in charge of TFA.

Right platform

At the time when it is celebrating 25 years in existence, the decision to have its own club comes as a significant move. Gaining the elite status is nothing new to TFA, which qualified to the National Football League (the previous name of I-League) in 2006.

The academy side could not play the elite division of the tournament as the AIFF regulations required that only professional sides play in the top tier. Though the company shied away from forming a professional entity six years ago and decided not to retain its side in the premier club contest of the country, it now finds the same action necessity to provide its successful cadets a proper platform to showcase their talent.

The TFA has drawn up more influences to strengthen its training facilities. The academy forged a tie-up with English side – Sheffield United FC - two years ago. The tie-up with Sheffield extends till January 2013, and it may be extend for another term on a favourable review, it was informed.

The qualification process for TFA will start from the next I-League second division, from which two teams are promoted to the elite stage every season. While the qualification to the highest stage is looked upon as a certainty, the presence of Tatas in the premier tournament will definitely add zest to the growing stature of club football in the country.

Published on July 16, 2012

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