P. Hindu Kumar could have never imagined that football would rescue him from the lack of employment opportunities in Bommannahal Mandal of the Anantapur District in Andhra Pradesh, where he lives with supportive parents who are farmers.
He represented Andhra Pradesh in the Santosh trophy in 2016 and volunteered as a coach in the subsequent year at the sports development initiative Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA). P. Hindu Kumar decided to bring a change in rural Anantapur through his passion for football. Hindu has gone through a series of changes starting from being a young football player at the age of 15, to becoming a coach at the ASA Football Academy.
Let’s catch up with P. Hindu Kumar, who is getting ready to leave for his evening coaching session at Anantapur Sports Village and know what’s so special about his story:
Antony CJ: Could you tell us how you joined the Anantapur Sports Academy?
Kumar: It all started back in the summer holidays of 2012. While skimming through a local newspaper, I happened to see a picture of a cricket stadium with a mighty cricket pavilion and I thought to myself it must be somewhere in one of India’s big cities. After reading carefully, I realised that it was in my district, Anantapur itself.
With excitement, I read the whole article and got to know that there was a summer coaching camp to be held there by a Spanish football club called Sant Cugat FC. I decided to give it a shot and be a part of the summer football camp. That was it, soon I was selected to be a part of the residential football academy at ASA. The reason why I am here now.
Antony CJ: How did you decide to take up football coaching as a career?
Kumar: There was a lot of scope for improving the standard of football in Anantapur and in India since it’s not very popular with the Indian crowd. Even though we have many talented players in rural India but lack of opportunities hinders them. Realising this fact, I knew I could bring a change in the present scenario with my passion for football and coaching the aspiring individuals in my district.
Another factor of my transition from a player to a coach was the immense support provided by ASA to players like me, who are interested in taking up coaching as a career. With that goal in my mind, I worked hard and cleared my AIFF (All India Football Federation) ‘D’ License certification in August 2017. And soon, I started working as a volunteer football coach at ASA to gain more experience.
Antony CJ: What do you want to teach using the medium of football?
Kumar: The football sessions at ASA are much more than just getting technically better from the training sessions, it also focuses on the holistic development of the child off the field. Moreover, excelling in after school life-skills and English language classes are also emphasised on. And I have observed that the children have become more confident and disciplined during my time as a volunteer coach for a U11 football team.
Seeing his growth and passion for football, he got the opportunity to coach at Pro Sport Development’s summer Football camp in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. It was a first time experience for Hindu Kumar to coach outside Anantapur and Andhra Pradesh. He was responsible for preparing 72 girls and 112 boys from 6 different centres, part of the Pro Sport Development’s- Community Sports Program, to teach the basics of football, for a Mixed Gender Football Cup in Bhubaneswar.
Antony CJ: What was your experience of coaching in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha and what were the learning outcomes for yourself?
Kumar: It was a new experience for me to travel alone on a train and coach outside of Andhra Pradesh. I was excited to share my knowledge of football with the children and coaches of the Community Sports Program. The enthusiasm and eagerness to learn about football among the girls and boys was something I will never forget.
“I love playing football. This camp really helped me work on my game. I hope to one day play like Sunil Chhetri”, said Rishav Swain a class 6 student at the football camp, who dreams to take up the sport professionally and play for India in the future. Travelling outside Andhra Pradesh also convinced me there is so much to learn and develop for ourselves. I have learnt a great deal from the ‘fun-games’ part of the PSD’s curriculum and I plan to make use of those games in my sessions at ASA.
Antony CJ: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Kumar: I would like to clear all the AIFF football certifications and take ASA Football Program to a higher level of competitions in India. I would love to see some of my students playing for India.
Hindu has transitioned himself very well from being a football player to working as a coach, something not many in his place would not be able to do. He aims to provide the children in Anantapur an alternative through sports. “Hindu has always been keen on learning, but the biggest difference he made was when he started coaching and I think ASA has given him a great platform to grow professionally and personally. He has a great potential to succeed and make it big”, says Miquel Llado, Technical Director of ASA Football Academy.
Making India a great nation in terms of sports is not a distant dream if all the stakeholders work towards it. An important piece of the puzzle is to provide access of sports like football to rural youth. Capable and motivated coaches liked P. Hindu Kumar, have proved that the trajectory of football in India is on the right track, starting from the grassroots.