Bhubaneswar: Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, along with Chief of Global Football Development at FIFA, Arsene Wenger, inaugurated the AIFF-FIFA Talent Academy in front of a full house Kalinga stadium during the India vs Qatar encounter at Round 2 of the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 joint qualification campaign in Kalinga Stadium.

This is a major initiative to boost football development in India. AIFF and FIFA are partnering with Government of Odisha in establishing this academy. 50 talented football players In the under 14 years category will be selected for the academy from across the country, including 15 Odisha players. The Academy will be headed by a Fifa appointed coach along with various coaches and staff from AIFF and Govt of Odisha.

Chief minister said, “ Football is a popular game in India especially among the younger generation. There is lot of talent in football in India and with proper coaching facilities, our team can perform very well in future. I am happy that we are able to partner with FIFA and AIFF to create such academies. Odisha will support football Projects and work in close collaboration with AIFF for football promotion in India”.

VK Pandian, chairman 5T & Navin Odisha, interacted with Arsene Wenger during his visit to the stadium. Pandian showed the upcoming sports science center in Kalinga Stadium to Mr Wenger, who was impressed with the commitment of the state towards sports development.

Also present on this occasion sports minister Tusharkanti Behera, President of All India Football Federation, Kalyan Chaubey, chief secretary P K Jena, DC Anu Garg and sports secretary Vineel Krishna.