MINERVA Deserves: Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar, 2020

Minerva; A name, almost every Indian Football Fan is Familiar with, and why not after all that they have been doing for Indian Football, with hopefully more and more of such good work to come from their side.

Minerva Academy, since their journey began, has been instrumental in developing Youth and Providing India with numerous young talents, playing all across the country. Their contribution to Indian Football is Invaluable. No denying that as a football fan in India, the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear Development in recent years, is Minerva Academy.

Why saying these? Well, many of you already know, but here it is.

It is of utmost pride, to say that Minerva Academy Football Club, has been recommended for the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar, 2020, in the category of Identification and Nurturing of Budding/Young Talents.

Well to be honest, Minerva deserve the award, and I am sure you would be eager to know more about them and why they deserve it.

Let’s begin with first things first, and know all about Minerva Academy Football Club, and their contributions in short.

Minerva Academy Football Club:

Minerva Academy Football club is a Not-For-Profit Company owned by Mr. Ranjit Bajaj, who himself used to play football in early days of his career and represented India at the U-19 level in the Asian School games. Not only this but he also played numerous football tournaments all across the country, including prestigious tournaments like the Santosh Trophy, Durand Cup and various Junior Nationals.

His footballing journey had a twist though. Ranjit Bajaj was upset by the lack of opportunities in Sports, specially in the Northern Region of the country and that led to the birth of an idea which is doing wonders in their region and of course, all over the Country. An idea to steer kids away from the streets, crime and drugs, into a rewarding career in sports. An idea to bring up kids from every corner, from all backgrounds, nurture them and give an opportunity for budding talents to shine. Yes, that Idea is now known as the Minerva Academy Football Club.

Mr. Ranjit Bajaj, set up the Club and Academy in 2014, to revive sports, specially football, in the Northern Region of the country and eventually made it his personal mission to provide kids with the best opportunities and facilities possible, so that they’re able to secure a good future for themselves and also help the country excel in sports and bring Glory to the Nation.

Now, let’s have a look at the insides Minerva Academy Football Club what they have done in the recent years.

Their Academy provides training to more than 160 trainees across U-8 to U-19 age groups, all year Round. These kids are identified and selected through extensive All India Open Trials, from even extreme corners of the country and nurtured and inducted into their football training programs with full scholarships. The Academy is located in Mohali, and provides top class facilities and infrastructure to the trainees for their development and to get the best out of those kids.

With 2 full size Football fields, 6 small sided game fields, hostels, mess, gymnasium, swimming, wellness clinic, physiotherapy, basketball court, auditorium, class rooms and various other facilities, the campus provides unparalleled and best facilities. Along with 100% scholarships to all identified children, The Academy also provides all year round needs of the identified children, including training, schooling, diet, medical needs, equipment and kits, transportation, etc.

These trainees then move forward to make up the Junior and age group teams of Minerva FC. They are made to participate at top levels, in numerous regional and National tournaments like AIFF U-13, U-15 and U-18 Leagues, Subroto Cup, Reliance Sports Foundation tournaments and many more. But, that’s just a small part of the story because the way these kids are nurtured and trained they move forward to big heights, and the academy hence acts like almost a direct feeder academy for the National Team in all age groups because of the talents they produce every year.

Hence, the Minerva Residential Football Academy is known as one of the best in the country and has supplied 49 individual players and 172 selections for various age group Indian Teams, in the last 5 years.

Let’s talk about the competitions which Minerva Academy Football Club featured in and their results. We all know that Minerva had won the Hero I-League in the 2017-18 season bringing back the National Football Trophy to North India and Punjab, after 21 years. But what’s less discussed is their incredible success in the age group level with appreciable consistency.

Minerva Academy Football Club, is a regular participant at the AIFF U-13, U-15, U-18 All India Youth Leagues. Not only participation but their success has been remarkable.

Minerva are the Champions of: AIFF U-13 Youth League 2017-18, AIFF U-15 Youth League 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19, and AIFF U-18 Youth League 2018-19.

Well, talking about numbers; Minerva identified and Nurtured a total of 366 children in the last three years, from 2017 to 2020 which is huge in all.

From India’s first goal scorer in any FIFA Tournament, Jeakson Singh Thounaojam, to the boy whose free kick goal helped India beat Argentina, Anwar Ali, Minerva has been a hub for Football Development in India. Almost all of the top sides in Indian Football leagues has young talented players produced or developed by the Minerva Academy Football Club, in their squads.

Not only this but their contribution to sports wasn’t to be limited to this. Minerva has tied up with many of the local schools, colleges, and universities in various ways including running their in-school training programs, or to invite their teams for training camps or friendly matches and invitational tournaments, to promote the sporting culture in the region and provide the kids with an opportunity to get more exposure and experience, for them to shine.

Minerva Academy Football Club wants to genuinely develop sports in the country and hence put in all efforts possible and are still trying for more. They even help rising clubs from the region as much as they can, by providing them facilities like playing friendlies, coaching trainings, exposure trips, joint training camps and other such ways which may help those clubs to progress more and help them to provide their kids and coaches get better opportunities and experiences.

The best part about them is that the entire set up is self funded by Mr. Ranjit Bajaj with a sole dream of introducing thousands of youngsters to the top stages of Indian Football, by giving them the opportunity which they were lacking previously and also seeing India in the Fifa World Cup very soon, with such talents produced by him and his club, every year.

They have already bagged few awards given by the State Government, Central Government, and others for their good work in the field. Namely, The Best Centre of Youth Excellence – 2017 by Federation of Football Coaches India (FCCI), Appreciation for Contribution to Indian Football – Indian Fotball Awards 2018 by Football Players Association of India (FPAI), Recognition of Valuable Contribution for Developing Football at Grassroots Level – GOAL 2019 by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

Minerva were also awarded with a Letter of Recognition and Congratulations on ocassion of winning the I-League 2017-18 by FIFA President, Mr. Gianni Infantino.

With Top class medical facilities, one of the best infrastructures, and the best opportunities and efforts in all ways for developing young talents, Minerva has been a Hub for Nurturing and Developing budding/young talents.

Not only does the numbers and stats show, but the entire Football Community is aware of the players which Minerva Academy Football Club provided to the Nation. We all know the heroics and potential of many of such players already like our very own Anwar Ali from the Indian U-17 World Cup batch of 2017 or wonder boy Nongdomba Naorem from the same batch. Many might be surprised to know, but Indian Senior National Team’s midfield sensation, 22 year old Anirudh Thapa also hails from the Minerva Academy Football Club and Indian Star Stopper Sandesh Jhingan was also a part of Minerva in their early days.

Infact there are not some, but many notable names from Minerva Academy who went on to represent the nation at different age groups and even the senior team. From Junior India Internationals like Vikram Pratap Singh, Givson Singh, Narender Ghalot, Jeakson Singh, Nongdomba Naorem, Anwar Ali, Thoiba Singh, Manvir Singh, Subham Sarangi, Baoringdao Bodo, Hormipam Ruivah, to Senior India Internationals like Vinit Rai, Germanpreet Singh, Davinder Singh, Anirudh Thapa all of them have come up from this wonderful initiative by Mr. Ranjit Bajaj, that is the Minerva Academy Football Club.

Not to say why they have been recommended the RASHTRIYA KHEL PROTSAHAN PURUSKAR 2020, and they thoroughly deserve the Award.

While everybody is busy in business, this man Mr. Ranjit Bajaj has a bulls eye on that Golden World Cup Trophy, and is really determined to see India in that big stage very soon. We really hope that Minerva keeps up their good work and their wonderful performances and gift us with more and more of young talents, who will very soon take India to the Fifa World Cup.

Being an Indian Football Fan since long, and been seeing the way Mr. Ranjit Bajaj and his Team, has been working towards developing Indian Football, since the beginning of their journey with Minerva, I can not thank them enough for what they already did for Indian Football so far, and are currently doing aswell and I wish from my heart that they keep doing the same good work and achieve more and more of success in coming days and together celebrate India, Rising.

Well goes without saying that India needs more of such academies and initiatives for Development in Sports, and Minerva Academy Football Club has set up an example and surely is an Inspiration for many Sports Lovers in the Country.

With all Pride, I would love to Congratulate Mr. Ranjit Bajaj and the entire Team of Minerva, on being nominated for the award. On an ending note, I would like to wish all the very best to Minerva Academy Football Club for the awards and I believe, given their performance, commitment and work towards identifying and nurturing budding/young talents, year in-year out, Minerva Academy Football Club, surely deserve to get this prestigious award of Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar 2020.

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