Panasonic starts state-of-the-art football academy in Haryana

New Delhi: Nearly three decades after the inauguration of the much-revered Tata Football Academy, electronics giants Panasonic has set up a state-of-the-art residential football school, similar to the one in Jamshedpur, in Haryana.

It is already running an academy in Rohtak, and another, likely to be set up in Gurgaon, is in the pipeline.

The electronics major did not renew its three-year contract with the national football team after it ended on December 31 last year, as its focus shifted from brand building to grassroots development of the sport.

"We realised it`s time for grassroots development in football, so opening up academies in India was the way to go," Manish Sharma, managing director, consumer product division, Panasonic India, told PTI.

"It will include grooming young talents, giving them education, taking care of their expenses for training, equipments etc. We have opened our first academy in Rohtak, and another one is coming up in Gurgaon.

"We want to build the sport through sports people, to be training young people. 14 is the starting age... In the near future we will open up academies for those below under-14," Sharma added.

Asked about the company`s decision to not renew its ties with the All India Football Federation (AIFF), he said, "The idea now is not to build brand... It is about contributing to the sport. If it`s about brand building only, then we can be associated with Bollywood or cricket." Talking further about its new initiative, he said, "We have a team from Panasonic and the Haryana Football Association who are into scouting of coaches and young talents."

Panasonic, along with Libero Sports India, had last July organised a three-day dream camp for aspiring footballers in Shillong.

The company`s deal with the AIFF was worth Rs 4.7 crore.

The AIFF`s commercial partners IMG-Reliance has been struggling to find a new sponsnor for the national team ever since the association with Panasonic ended.