Over the years, Borussia Dortmund have grown steadily in stature both as a team in the European football structure as well as earning a penchant as hotbed of talent that has sourced some of the the best talent coming out of Germany.

The “Youth Sector”, Dortmund’s famed training academy situated just on the outskirts the city, houses some of the best training facilities , including the state-of-the-art “Footbanaut”. A number of German superstars, including World Cup-winner Mario Goetze, and Marco Reus have trained using the automated machine and gone onto achieve bigger and greater things in the football arena.

On Thursday, it was announced that Tata Trusts U Dream Football had entered into a technical tie-up with the top German club that will see 48 talented Indian children train under the club’s youth coaches and also draw from the club’s world class training facilities in Germany.

Thirty-five children from the northeast joined the programme in recent months and joined 13 others, who are currently part of an existing academy set up by U Dream in Germany’s Bitburg area.

The children will spend ten months a year over six years in schooling and football training in Germany, it was announced at a media conference on Thursday.

“The depth of training in Germany is second to none. The biggest challenge for us was to convince parents that their children can have an alternative career in sports. We are aiming to increase the number to 200 with the help of the German Consulate,” said founder Ronnie Screwvala of U Dream which got into a partnership with the 125-year-old Tata Trusts last year.

The boys are in the age group of 12-14 years and the aim of the programme is to ensure that all enrolled players play professional football by placing them in clubs across Europe, the Americas and Asia, including India.

Learning the tricks of the trade with Borussia Dortmund

All clubs in the Bundesliga have invested heavily into establishing academies. The movement began in 2004 in the lead up to the 2006 World Cup. The German side’s runner’s up finish in the 2002 finals was seen as a turning point with many of the country’s long-standing players. A new crop was needed, and fast.

Instead of splurging on foreign stars, the clubs set up world class institutions or improved on those that were already in existence.

The Academy system has worked well for the football-obsessed country. The infusion of a youth system galvanised the supply of steady supply of talent that made the international grade.

Dortmund’s academy in specific has been noted to be one of the best in the country. Top German players such as Goetze and Reus have honed their skills at the Dortmund academy.

When Goetze scored Germany’s winner in the final of the 2014 World Cup against Argentina, it was celebrated as a success of the youth system in the country. In fact, out of the 23 World Cup winners, 21 were products of the various youth academies in the country.

Soon, a few children from India will get a taste of this quality football education.

According to Christian Diercks, Lead-Youth Programmes, Dortmund-BVB, the focus would be understanding the children’s talents and also to get them to understand the ethos of Dortmund’s training style.

“We will want to understand what each of these children’s strength lie on the field. Obviously, getting them accustomed to the way the club functions would be one of the things we will want them to go through,” Diercks said.

“Throught the academy Dortmund has managed to unearth plenty of talent including World Cup winners. We will give them a look at all the facilities, including the ‘Footbanaut’ that has helped shape many of the present stars,” he added.

Helping under-privileged children find a career path

Through Tata Trusts, the programme has managed to tap into the rural areas and managed to unearth a pool of talented players that have the potential to play the sport professionally and also receive an all-round education that sets them up on a career path.

Tata, which plays a major role in community development across the country, are making a concerted effort in the Northeast to find better avenues for the under-privileged in the region.

“Most children who are part of the programmed come from an under-privileged background. Football is one of the more popular sports in the region and is followed widely there. We are hoping this acts as a unifying factor and attracts more people,” R Venkataramanan, managing trustee of Tata Trusts said.

The children are being taught by Indian teachers in accordance to the Central Board of Secondary Education. There are plans to switch the children to a curriculum based on the International Board in the coming months.

Asked what was the pathway laid out for the young football talent after the end of six years, Screwvala said “It’s a 16-year relationship, six now and ten later.”

The boys are in the age group of 12-14 years and the aim of the programme is is to ensure that all enrolled players play professional football by placing them in clubs across Europe, the Americas and Asia, including India.

Former India captain Bhainchung Bhutia said India needed to do a lot more grassroots programme in football while adding “definitely there has been improvement over the last three years” in this respect.

“The FIFA Under 17 World Cup (to be hosted by India this October), is a start, but we need to make more kids play football for more talent to come up,” he said.

Eye on the Under-17 World Cup

As per the programme currently charted, each week the trainees play games against top-ranked youth sides in the region as well as those in Belgium and Luxembourg and so far the team has won 15 out of 20 games and lost three.

The talented youngsters are also being courted by the All India Football Federation with an eye on the Under-17 World Cup which will kick-off in the country in October.

The AIFF is said to have approached U Dream to release a few players into the India U-17 squad, U dreams, though, is treading the path carefully and does not want to rush its players into major commitments. They have asked for a game with the current India probabales and are open to releasing a player after if such a request comes forward.

“We do not want to disturb their curriculum. But we will be open to sending a few to the Indian squad when it comes to it,” Screwvala said.