SHAJI PRABHAKARAN

A Thought Leader – Football is Life

SHAJI PRABHAKARAN
MY STORY

MY JOURNEY WITH FOOTBALL PART III: MY FAMILY & FIFA – A FOOTBALL PILGRIMAGE

  SUPPORT FROM FAMILY

The support from family, friends, teachers, and well-wishers played an important role in every aspect of my life during my journey from childhood till date.“

The love and support of a family are life’s greatest blessings. It is impossible to cross milestones and attain great heights of success without the support of family members and well-wishers to prop you up and push you. My uncles played a very important role in my life when my parents were struggling with their business. They supported me financially for my higher education and provided all the support I needed to continue my dream journey with football, in particular my uncle KV Gopi, who was a great strength for me. I realized early on that I needed the best education and learning to make it as a sports professional, as did my younger brother, who unflinchingly supported me financially when I attended my international UEFA course.

“I realized early on that I needed the best education and learning to make it as a sports professional.”

DEVELOPING INDIAN FOOTBALL

In 2004, I joined AIFF even though the salary offered was very low, but my main motive was to make a contribution to Indian football. Having previously had success with the academy graduates, I managed youth development, the national team, coach education, and women’s football from day one at AIFF. I further planned and initiated player scouting criteria and profiles for all the youth selectors. In February 2005, the first-ever grassroots course in India was organized by AIFF and fully conceived, planned, and executed by me as a Course Instructor in Kalyani, Kolkata. One of the projects I had the good fortune to develop was the Vision India project with Manipur in 2005, which eventually became one of the best projects in Asia. I went on to work with four different National Head Coaches, the India senior team, and 15 other head coaches of youth and women’s teams in my five years with AIFF.

MY JOURNEY AS AN ENTREPRENEUR

“Dreams don’t work unless You do.”

There is no substitute for hard work if you want to make your dreams come true. In 2010, I decided to take the plunge and enter the sports industry as an entrepreneur.  At this stage, I was totally dependent on my wife’s income to manage my life, as returns in the sports industry in India at the time were very low. An entrepreneurial journey is a great learning experience, and the only thing one can expect is the unexpected! In 2010, I floated a football management company, and after a year of joy, struggle, pain, elation, hardship, ideation, frustration, and satisfaction, I wound up operations in September 2011. It was a great experience being an entrepreneur in football, where consultancy, event management, and the development of football were the key areas we worked with. The intention behind starting the company was to extend the best possible services to all the stakeholders in Indian Football and add value to Indian football, but it was not easy in a still nascent market.

WORKING FOR FIFA

In October 2011, I joined the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Working for FIFA is a huge responsibility, one that I value and respect immensely. From working in Afghanistan, Nepal, and Tajikistan and developing football to witnessing special events like the FIFA World Cup. From being present at the FA Cup Final, Champions League Final to the local age group tournament finals in India, the Maldives, and Bhutan

From meeting many inspirational football personalities (ex-players, coaches, administrators, etc.) from all corners of the globe to visiting top clubs like Arsenal, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Sporting Lisbon It has been the experience of a lifetime and a dream come true.  Working at the FIFA U17 World Cup 2015 in Chile, seeing the next generation of players showcase their abundant talent and potential was a fabulous experience, and managing a world class competition in Chile was a learning experience in itself.

“I deeply believe that sports impact our society positively, that sports heal in a crisis situation, that sports are a must for a healthy, burgeoning society”

Football has given me the opportunity to interact with numerous passionate individuals in football from across the world who all want to make a difference in society and the community with football. It is up to us to make that difference, whether it be in football, or any sport. Because I deeply believe that sports impact our society positively, that sports heal in a crisis situation, and that sports are a must for a healthy, burgeoning society.

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