The latest rumours out of Jamshedpur suggest that the Tata Football Academy, India's top football academy, is planning to return to play the 2nd Division of the I-League. And this would be good news for Indian football, but the question remains if the Tata Steel management will push for a place in the I-League or just want to use the 2nd Division as competition for their young cadets.
One only has to remember April/May 2006 when the Tata Football Academy won the 2nd Division National Football League ahead of Churchill Brothers SC and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited SC. But the then TFA management thought it wouldn't be wise to play the Academy side in the premier division, so declined promotion and the AIFF then decided not to allow TFA to play the second division if there was no intention by the Academy to play in the top tier.
But now that thinking within TFA seems to have changed. The management is looking at the necessary AFC Club Licensing Criteria and is considering of fielding a team in the I-League if the cadets qualify through the 2nd Division. But a final decision on this regard has not been taken. Last season itself TFA wanted to take part in the 2nd Division, but the papers had been send in too late and one will have to see if the AIFF accept TFA back into the 2nd Division this year with the old story from 2006 still in the mind of the national federation.
For TFA the exposure and tougher competition in the league is the key for development of their cadets and they see the positive example of Sesa Football Academy from Goa, which has evolved from being only an Academy into now having a senior team. And Sesa's senior team play in the 2nd Division I-League with ambitions to play in the premier division. It could be a path which TFA would want to follow. And for Indian club football it would be a big step forward if a Tata's backed team plays in the premier division.
Also recruiting senior players wouldn't be an issue for TFA as a number of cadets surely would like to come back to TFA and play for the Academy which made them big. The only issue could be induction of the India Under-19 national team into the I-League this year as a number of TFA cadets will be part of this squad.