IndianFootball.Com Interview: JOSHUA LEWIS

Football project after football project that we have interviewed and reported about in our Youth Development section has shown that the love for football is much more of a driver than official programs and policies. We return today to Mumbai and bring to our readers, an inside and behind the scenes look on the Kenkre Football Academy. Both, the men and the football project are testimony to the fact that the football administration would do well to help/assist these initiatives across our country, rather than try the same old formulas that have not produced little to no results but just wasted resources in a poor country like ours. The thinking, passion and success of the people at the Kenkre Football Academy shines right through this interview. Joshua Lewis, Adib Kenkre and the other have clearly thought outside of the box by combining studies with football and looking after the complete aspect of child development.
We talked to Joshua Lewis, the Director of the Kenkre Football Academy.

Please tell us about Kenkre Football Academy, who it is named after, when did it start and so on?

Good Morning to all the readers at IndianFootball.Com, well the Kenkre Football Academy started in Mumbai in 2000. The whole idea for starting Kenkre Football Academy was the amalgamation of sports and studies. In Mumbai parents treat sports as just a pastime and Sir Kenkre had other thoughts that the Best Students were the Best footballers having the highest IQ/EQ which always proved true, so to bridge the gap the academy started. The academy is named after my coach Sir. Adib Kenkre if you ask me why, I would only say He is the BEST not only as a football coach but also as a true friend, motivator and guide. And in today's society you not only need coaches to train you to become football stars, but you need a person who can make a difference in your life. You need a holistic approach in today's society.

Where is the academy located? How big is it in terms of facilities, area and trainees? Is it a residential academy?

The Academy is currently located at Dadar, Shivaji Park in Mumbai. We have a group of over 300 trainees in various age groups who are extremely talented. We initiate only the best of the talent in our academy. We are not a residential academy, in Mumbai you cannot make the guys homesick. We prefer to have our trainees enjoy the game rather than make it a pain. As far as facilities offered we're still not on par as far as international academies are concerned but will be there in another two years time.

What are the annual expenses of the academy and how are the expenses met? How many people work at the academy on a full time and part time basis?

The academy annual expenses are about 20 lakhs which actually is much more; we are looking out for sponsors who would want to invest in football strategically. The current academy expenses are met through patrons, well-wishers; Mr. Kiron & Mr. Kishore Shetty, Sir Kenkre and I myself have invested a lot of money. There are 10 coaches who give their services on a part time basis with four people including myself who work on a full time basis.

What is the maximum capacity of the academy in terms of students that can be trained at the same time? How many students are being trained right now? Do all students/trainees get the same training or is there a more intensive course for some trainees?

The academy has a set of 25 trainees in the higher age groups i.e. U19, U17 - they train 4 times a week. In the lower age groups the ratio is 1:16 coach: trainees, they train 3 times a week. We have a separate specialist goalkeeping coach. The training differs in age-groups we have special player courses for the highly talented individuals.

How many locations does the academy have today? Does the academy own the facilities or is it renting them? Are there any plans on establishing new academies in the state or increasing the capacity of the existing academy?

The academy currently functions at three locations, all rented premises. The academy every year increases it capacity to train the best of the talent. Kenkre Football Academy does plan to spread out in the country and work with like minded people.

Do you have any tie-ups with coaches or institutions from overseas to develop both the coaches that train and the trainees. How do you ensure that the coaches remain at the cutting edge of coaching and training?

The academy is looking out for tie-ups which will help its system grow systematically. The coaches that train at the academy are very carefully picked a minimum AFC 'C' license is the criteria but not the only criteria. The coaches who are involved with us are players who have played competitive football at the highest level. We have a Quarterly coaches meeting for analysis to see that things are functioning as planned. Special Clinics are held for the coaches by reputed instructors. Kenkre Football Academy is a planned effort.

How are trainees selected, what is their age and how long do they stay at the Academy until they "graduate"?

Well this is the most tedious task of all talent scouting. Well the trainees are selected once they finish school i.e. the 10th grade they are initiated on the basis of their talent; they are genuinely 15 years of age. They are with the academy for five years until they graduate. The academy has now started initiating children from the age of 6 years recently.

As a trainee what does a child get in terms of training and facilities from the academy?

Well if you ask any of our trainees the child will give you a better answer, as what part the academy has played in his development. Our approach to the development of the child is more holistic; at the end of the day the child should have fun and enjoy what he does. The academy slogan is "Play the Beautiful Game, Beautifully".
Playing competitive matches, football tourneys, festivals, meeting football stars, player workshops are part n package of what Kenkre Football Academy offers.

What are top five things (or more) that will make a dramatic impact in quality of football in India.

I was just waiting for this one to come I do not know where to start.
I have been reading lots of things all over as to what should be done for the development of Indian football. Let me put it bluntly:

  • the old guys who are running Indian football for over a decade should be thrown out not the coaches, Indian FIFA rankings down from 118th down to 165th what an achievement from the top brass
  • Run football like a private business house not like a government concern
  • Stop blaming cricket for the downfall, wake up change your style of functioning instil young blood with new ideas to run the show
  • Corporates (Coffers of gold) that support sport should be given special incentives
  • Encourage private clubs in India not government/ office teams
  • Infrastructure - Football stadiums are a major requirement
  • If changes are made in these areas the attitude and approach of everyone involved in the game changes. I'm very sure Indian Football has a bright future ahead.

    Congratulation on getting promoted to the Mumbai Elite Division! Please tell us about the league structure in Mumbai and how do you think your team will fare in the Elite Division? Are you aiming for qualifying for the NFL? What is the average age of your team?

    Thanks, Well the league in Mumbai consists of the four Divisional Leagues followed by the Senior, Super, Elite Leagues.
    If you want me to be practical the competition is much tougher with the likes of Air- India, Mahindra United, Central Railway, ONGC, the whole idea is to showcase our talented youngsters, the results are immaterial, on the ambitious side we will not disgrace.
    Well yes the NFL is in our sights just wait and watch
    The average age is genuinely 18 years.

    Who have been some of the most famous graduates of the academy so far? Any major awards/tournaments that the Kenkre Football Academy has won?

    Amongst our Graduates are:

  • Srikant Nayak - Kenkre Football Academy trainee- Graduated from Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B)
  • The academy has produced the likes of Abhishek Yadav who is an India International capped over 30 times. Captained Maharashtra State Santosh Trophy Team for two consecutive years (2005, 2006). Currently with Mahindra United
  • KFA has produced the likes of Advait Dandekar who has been given a scholarship to train at the Bristol Football Academy which competes in the Divisional League of the English League
  • KFA has produced the likes of Hekmat Singh Ex-Mahindra United player, Currently with Mumbai Customs, Part of the Maharashtra State Santosh Trophy Team for the last couple of years (2005, 2006)
  • Clayton D'Souza has received a call up for the India U19 probables

  • Achievements:
  • Gained Promotion to the Senior League in 2005
  • Champions Mumbai Football Senior League 2005 - youngest team in Mumbai League history average age 17 years
  • Lakshit Shetty, Clayton D'Souza, Madhu Phadale, Sanjay Nair & Aaron Fernandes all 5-KFA trainees represented Maharashtra State in the U19 category in 2005
  • Champions Mumbai Football Super League 2006

  • Clayton D'Souza, Abu Sehma Shaikh, Neville Joseph all 3-KFA trainees represented Maharashtra State in the U19 category in 2006. Clayton D'souza captained the team.
  • Promoted to the Mumbai Elite Professional League - Premier League of Mumbai youngest team to compete in the League (likes of Mahindra United, Air-India, ONGC)
  • Youngest team in Mumbai Football League History to become Champions for 2 years consecutively in two separate promotional Leagues
  • The academy u16 team competes in the 3rd Division of the Mumbai League
  • Along with PIFA Colaba Young Stars and now your team, would you say football is making strides in Mumbai? How do you see football's future in Mumbai?

    I can only speak for my organisation; well yes Kenkre Football Academy is making strides in Mumbai football. Football always had a great future in Mumbai but recently it has picked up the momentum.

    Can you tell us about your new project the Kenkre Sports Foundation?

    Well this project is something that I personally always dreamt of, but now it has taken shape in the form of the Kenkre Sports Foundation. The Foundation is for the underprivileged children who are keen on making sports as a career. The foundation will support all these kids who aim to be the future stars of the country. The Foundation has already initiated 20 underprivileged kids who are extremely talented and are being trained by the academy coaches. All expenses in nurturing these kids are being taken care by the foundation. These kids are trained with the privileged lot casting away all the differences. The Foundation is entitled to receive donations from government, charitable institutions, MNC sponsorships, private & public individuals and institutions. (Tax Exemption Under 80-G) we ask you to pledge your support to us for this worthy cause!

    What do you think about IndianFootball.Com and its work?

    I appreciate the work done by Arunava Chaudhuri and his team at IndianFootball.Com for their dedication for the development of Indian Football!
    We at Kenkre Football Academy extend our support to you!
    Sir Kenkre has extended his warm regards to IndianFootball.Com

    Many, many thanks for all your work for the betterment of Indian football over the years and for the time taken to give us this interview!

    the interview was conducted via eMail by Harmit Singh Kamboe (March 2007)

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