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 is life’s greatest blessing. It is impossible to cross milestones and attain great heights of success without the support of your 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 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”


In 2004 I joined AIFF even though the salary offered was very low, but my main motive was to make a contribution in Indian football. Having previously had success with the academy graduates, I managed youth development, national team, coach education and women’s football from day one at AIFF. I further planned and initiated a player scouting criteria and profile for all the youth selectors. In Feb 2005 the first ever grassroots course in India was organised by AIFF which was 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 the best projects in Asia. I  went on to work with four different National Head Coaches, India senior team and 15 other head coaches of youth and women’s team in 5 years with AIFF .


“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 off the deep end 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 less. 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 development of football were the key areas we working with. The intention behind starting the company was to extend 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.    


In October 2011, I joined the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Working for FIFA is a huge responsibility, and one that I value and respect immensely. From working in Afghanistan, Nepal, 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, Maldives, 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, Sporting Lisbon. It has been the experience of a lifetime and a dream come true.  Working on the FIFA U17 World Cup 2015 in Chile, seeing the next generation of players showcasing their abundant talent and potential was a fabulous experience and managing a world class competition in Chile was a learning in itself.

“I deeply believe that sports impact our society positively, that sports heals in a crisis situation, that sports is 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 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 heals in a crisis situation, that sports is a must for a healthy, burgeoning society.

By Shaji Prabhakaran

Football Consultant| Sports Expert| President Football Delhi (FA)| Author| Ex-FIFA/AIFF| Consultant AFC, FIFA, ICC| CIES| Development| Management|

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