Raman Vijayan has trained over 1000 kids in last 10 years and says he will continue to do so until his dream comes true.
Once known as a lethal striker ,feared by defenders all over the country, Indian Football legend Raman Vijayan took up coaching when he retired from football. His idea was to develop football in his home state of Tamil Nadu as he felt many promising kids were left without any opportunity to play football. His hard work has paid-off now that many of his academy graduates are playing professional football in different clubs.
Raman Vijayan Soccer School’s two brightest players Sivasakthi, who plays as a striker, and Kamalesh, who is a winger, have been signed by Bengaluru FC recently. In an exclusive interview with Footballindia.co.in, Raman Vijayan lifts the lid about his academy’s success.
Raman Vijayan’s main focus was to find talented kids from inner and often overlooked parts of Tamil Nadu. He went to villages in search of kids. Trained them for short stints but soon realized that this wasn’t enough. So he setup a Noble Football Academy in 2009 with some external help so that these poor kids can play regular football.
After my retirement in 2007 I came back to Tamil Nadu because young players in Tamil Nadu were not getting much exposure. I wanted to setup an academy on similar model of Tata Football Academy as it was the only academy in India that used to produce lot of talented players. I talked with many government officials regarding this proposal but most of them didn’t show much interest. I started moving to villages in search of players because village kids showed more desire and very ready to adapt to any kind of situation. The main intention behind this was that in villages most of the schools don’t have physical education teachers. When they want to know about sports they have to go to town and then they come to know about grounds, physical education and everything. I wanted to do something for those kids. We conducted short camps in villages and picked many talented kids. At that moment Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu came in support. Then soon one school came up and provided free education to these kids. From there we started moving to other schools to setup our academies there.
Although he was doing a tremendous job but funding was much harder to come by and his academy model wasn’t sustainable. Therefore, in 2016 he launched Raman Vijayan Soccer Schools, a commercial program based on pay and play scheme which enabled kids from all backgrounds to get professional football training with education side by side. His academy now features in all three age category of AIFF Youth Leagues i.e. U-13, U-15 and U-18.
In 2016 when I was in Delhi Dynamos we went for pre-season in England. There I visited number of professional academies and that made me realize why not start a commercial one with a professional setup. Then I founded RVSS in 2016 with pay and play system that included residential academy alongside school and is run like a modern professional academy. We are developing both Noble kids and RVSS at the moment. The training is equally given to both sets of players. We have 10 to 12 academy centers and 1 residential setup.
Raman Vijayan believes in attacking football. He is a big fan of Brazilian style of play where we see a lot of dribbling and 1 on 1 action. He has stressed that kids should be allowed to play football without too much intervention by the coaches and let kids find their own style. He feels if we restrict young players then we also restrict their ability to develop skills.
All my coaching is based on attacking football. I am also a Brazilian football fan. My team always will be attacking football team. You need to be strong in 1 on 1. That is more important in terms of attacking or defending. My thinking about football is all about positiveness. I have seen many coaches worrying about defending but for me attack is the best defence. We allow the children to grow as whatever they want to be. I have seen a lot of academies enforcing players to release ball and pass quickly. When we allow them to play you will find different talent from individual kid. They will become good dribbler when you allow them to dribble. When you start to restrict them then they forget their own ability. Most of the kids when they grow they will have their own ability.
On Youth Development in India
Vijayan feels that Youth Development system in India is broken and needs reforms to go in right direction. He feels that most academies run behind results and forgo the main target i.e. to develop young players. In doing so many academies were found playing overage players which brought shame on themselves and the youth development program. According to Vijayan until the age of 15 it’s all about playing experience for the kids.
Most of the academies are looking for the results and win matches. I don’t think at academy level focus should be to win matches but about player development. But most the teams are fighting to win matches and now you are seeing many teams getting suspened due to overage players. Why this is happening is because they want to win matches any way possible. I don’t bother if my U-13 and U-15 concede many goals but when it’s about U-18 we perform. My team finished 2nd behind Bengaluru FC. Chennaiyin, Chennai City and all others came behind us. U-13 and U-15 is all about experience but when they reach U-18 level there are no excuses because now its about performance and results. Most of the teams pick up players for 2 months, play them in league matches and send them back . So proper youth development is not happening.
The Next Chapter
Youth setup of RVSS is doing great at the moment. His aim of making Tamil Nadu a football state is also edging closer. Now he is also planning to start a senior team and is hoping to participate in the I-League 2nd division within 2 years. We hope Raman Vijayan’s ambitions for future become reality and his efforts become a case study for others to acquire inspiration and initiate similar efforts in their own states and cities.