Search for Indian star set to begin
With the success of the Indian Super League gripping football fans around the world, the sport has never been so popular in the country of some 1.6billion residents.
And now, with the ISL in full-flow, one of England’s Premier League clubs is leading a ground-breaking initiative to search for the Next Indian Star.
Promising young footballers from the South Asian country are being offered the opportunity to compete for the chance to train at the Crystal Palace Academy.
A delegation from the team, led by club ambassador Mark Bright, will be at Barclays Premier League Live, the Premier League’s international fan park, in Mumbai next month.
The weekend of events between 13th and 14th December will showcase the world’s most-watched teams, with the London-based Eagles teaming up with Mumbai City FC and Star Sports to stage a trial on Thursday 11th December for the best 16-19 year-olds in the region.
Following this, the 12 most promising youngsters will be invited to show their skills at the weekend event in front of thousands of spectators.
The winner of the ‘Play for Palace’ competition will come to London to train with the club’s hottest young prospects, in an academy which has produced stars such as Victor Moses, Wilfred Zaha and Nathaniel Clyne in the past.
Mark Bright, who scored more than 100 goals during his Palace career explained further about the project.
“This will be the chance of a lifetime,” he said. “The winner of the competition will get a fantastic experience playing at the Academy and then go back to India to become an ambassador for Palace.
“This is a unique initiative. Everyone has a favourite local team and favourite overseas team – we want football fans in India to follow us.
“We know cricket is the number one sport in India, but football is global and it would be great to see an Indian-born player in the Premier League one day. They would become an idol and an inspiration.”
Crystal Palace chief executive Phil Alexander added: “We are very excited to be going to India to show ourselves to a new army of fans.
“The Premier League is booming in India and it’s a great chance for us to extend the club’s reach.”
As well as hosting the competition, The CPFC Foundation will be putting on two days of coaching sessions for young footballers at two local schools.
Led by UEFA ‘A’ Licence coach, Gary Mulcahey, and in partnership with the Magic Bus Charity, children aged between 12 and 16 will take part in special training activities.
Palace’s initiative is part of a long-term plan to build lasting relationships in Mumbai and improve footballing standards in the region.
The club has strong roots in south London but has a global following and recognises that football is becoming increasingly popular in India with the launch of the Indian Super League.
A Mumbai City spokesman said: “India and Mumbai in particular has a lot of football talent waiting to be harnessed and promoted.
“This initiative will provide a great platform for the youth of the city to showcase their skills and win the opportunity of a lifetime.”