Chetan Misra has consecrated his passion for football towards social development under the banner of The Football Link with the hope that one day India too will dribble its way to the Football World Cup
The game that is globally credited wth uniting nations, is serving the purpose of structuring and reforming the lives of children coming from underprivileged families. In the capital city of India, New Delhi, Chetan Misra's organization The Football Link (TFL) serves the purpose of training these children with football skills to instill a sense of pride and value along with orienting them towards a better and positive future.
Incorporated in 2013, The Football Link Trust branched out from The Football Link with an aim to advance the football ecosystem in India and provide a sustainable medium that encourages self-development amongst children and youth.
In a short span of time, the organization has gathered worldwide appreciation with its balanced approach that galvanizes the physical and mental development of young minds and such has been the success of their initiative with the disadvantaged that Misra and his team are now experimenting and incorporating the football ecosystem into the larger society by taking it beyond the neighbourhood playground.
With the motive to create a platform that encourages social development by employing football at the grassroots level, the organization has initiated a new kind of social reformation approach by amalgamating children, coaches, schools, corporate and government agencies. Multiple programs and initiatives by the TFL team are simultaneously filling in the gaps of development and one such example is their Child and Youth Development Program (CYDP) which functions under the guidance of Delhi Police. An active session of football with Misra, his team and the Delhi police prevents these young players from falling prey to drugs, abuse, crime and exploitation. But guidance is not just limited to football. The team ensures that students are covered with the basic necessities including proper sporting gear, food and drinks, medical camps, transportation and vocational training.
Hailing from Odhisa, Misra pursued higher studies in Engineering and Economics in the United States and went on to work as a research scientist in futuristic technologies. During the course of his ten year stay in the US, Misra closely observed grassroots football in India and examined how the sport was employed for social development. “I followed the girls grassroots football league from there (USA). It was pretty exciting the way they used football as a tool for social development especially for young girls. “[Football was] Building their confidence and various other attributes and at the same time [it was] creating good players, so that was something that was really interesting and I wanted to do something similar especially for the underprivileged children,” explains Misra.
Using football as a tool to benefit children coming from various social classes, the organization instructs thousands of children within the age-group of 7-16, with its coaching camps set across New Delhi. International and national coaches are invited regularly to mentor the young players and assist TFL to disseminate a habitat of encouraging competitive football tournaments.
Recently, Misra and his team of passionate footballers coached the girls football team of Delhi University’s Jesus Mary College (JMC) “As part of their Women Empowerment Program” according to TFL website. The girls team was assimilated in the organization’s community outreach program where they connected with young females from deprived families to help them adapt a sports centric interface thus boosting their confidence and advancing their independence. Misra describes this experience on TFL website by saying “It was a really spirited performance by both the teams, and I am excited to be part of the JMC Football ecosystem. I feel that the football, if given the resources and attention, can contribute significantly to the development of girls in India, both on and off the field.”
Simultaneously, Misra is also working on a technology F3 (F-Cube) which will simplify and amplify the training prospects of players by developing their mental attributes, cognitive skills, concentration and technique through real game play. Acting as an audio-video medium, F3 caters to players, both male and female of various age-groups. The technology was introduced in 2014 in the presence of the Minister of Sports, Sarbananda Sonowal and other delegates from the sports community, India and abroad. Additionally, The Football Link has also signed a five-year MoU with the Sports Authority of India in order to further pursue grassroots football development in India.
If that is not enough, Misra is penning down his experiences and thoughts in a book titled Stop Dribbling, Pass Now. "What I realized with India is that everyone is dribbling around [and] there is not much information being passed around," Misra states. At a young age Misra has set up a perfect model to systematically inject progressive development in a country that has yet to realize the potential of sports in its academic curriculum. We hope with his initiative will play a significant part in paving the way of India’s entry in the Football World Cup.