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SSE featured in the Times of India Sports Section

April 26th 2012

Mumbai football gets Portuguese flavour

MUMBAI: In what is a break from the overwhelming presence of English Premier League teams conducting activity in the city, Mumbai is getting a taste of football the South American way.

City-based academy, Soccer Schools of Excellence (SSE) have forged a tie-up with Benfica that has seen the Portuguese giants send their academy coaches for a week-long summer programme that’s underway at the Karnatak Sports Association Grounds in Churchgate.
Coaches Edgar Cardoso and Mauro Mouralinho have been a week in the city, conducting sessions for around 120 participants who have been divided into groups of kids, teenagers and adults.

“It may seem like a gamble because we haven’t associated with a top-four EPL club but Benfica was the best thing to happen. Their ideologies and willingness to start something in India only made our decision stronger,” says Arpreet Bajaj, director and founder of the SSE.

Terming their India experience this far as a ‘new reality’, Cardoso said the speed and talent of the children at the camp was encouraging for Indian football.

“The kids here are quick learners. But what they need is regular competitive football. Back home in Portugal kids start chasing dreams of professional footballers at six and seven years. We even have leagues for children that age,” said the coach who handles the under-8 activity at the club’s academy.

The coaches are replicating the Benfica way of football which pays special attention to the social aspect of a player.

“While the technical and skill aspect is something we love at Benfica, the social element is important too. When a goal is scored, it is a norm for the team to go celebrate with the player who has set the scorer up. He is the hero. That way, everyone is encouraged to pass in a bid to become the star,” informs Mauro who is also a scout for the junior team of the two-time European champions.

The duo also stressed the need to tap football from the streets and improve infrastructure if the city is to unearth serious football talent.

The SSE has plans of a lengthy association with Benfica that could even see participants travel to the Lisbonbased club’s academy for training stints in the near future.

While Benfica has 33 football schools all over Portugal, the sole school outside the country is in Brazil and if things go like planned, Mumbai could very soon be on the radar.

Article by Kunaal Majgaonkar, TOI Sports Journalist