AIFF, Bharti Airtel 'Kick Off' youth football initiative in Goa

MUMBAI: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Bharti Airtel have launched Kick Off. This is a talent identification and development programme designed to help find young footballing talent in the Goa region.

The programme has been designed using the expertise of Manchester United Soccer Schools‘ (Muss) football coaching programmes.

An announcement in this regard was made in Goa, where a project will commence this month and mark the beginning of what many hope will be India‘s first step on the journey to world footballing status and participation in the major international football tournaments.

AIFF general secretary Alberto Colaco says, "On behalf of the AIFF, I am delighted to welcome children to take part in our Kick Off initiative. We have a bold vision for the future of football in India and this exciting scheme will only help to accelerate our progress on the world stage.

"We are also delighted to welcome Manchester United Soccer Schools to India - their worldwide reputation for youth development precedes them. We are most appreciative of the support shown by the Goa Government and by Bharti Airtel. Both parties share our vision for the future and our belief in the opportunity to improve the standards of Indian football. We wish the children taking part every success in what should be a memorable experience for them."

Bharti Airtel CEO - mobile services, Maharashtra and Goa Manu Talwar says, "Bharti Airtel is proud to be associated with Kick Off. Football is the most popular sport in the world and this outstanding initiative will go a long way in promoting a rich football and sporting culture in Goa. We believe that the talent exists in Goa and we need to identify and nurture it through such initiatives."

Manchester United Football Club‘s Sir Alex Ferguson said, "At Manchester United we place great emphasis on developing young players and I am proud to continue to play a part in this. It has been part of the tradition of the club since the days of Sir Matt Busby and is something we remain very much focused on today, whether bringing players through the Academy or coaching young players at our Manchester United Soccer Schools.

"We believe that through Manchester United Soccer Schools we can take the heritage of the Club and our football philosophy around the world. It‘s clear to see that with such a huge population in India the potential for football to grow is enormous, and we are delighted to be involved in the further development of the game here. Hopefully we can play a part in the vision of accelerating this development of young players in India, and helping youngsters to achieve their own potential through playing sport."

From 27 October - 2 November 2007, as part of a combined initiative involving AIFF, GFA, Bharti, Department of Sports and the Sports Authority of Goa, Kick Off will provide the opportunity for thousands of aspiring young soccer players within the Goa region of India to undertake a series of skills tests.

A coaching team from Manchester United Soccer Schools will supervise the programme, assisted by Brian McClair, The Head of Manchester United‘s Youth Academy. Brian played 470 times for Manchester United during a distinguished career in which he scored 127 goals for the club.

Susanna De Sousa said, "The Muss pilot project is the best thing that could have ever happened to Goan football. Most importantly to our budding talent and aspiring future football champions. Hats off to Muss UK and thank you for your commendable support and contribution to football and sports at large."

Savio Messias said, "It‘s fantastic to have Muss doing a talent spotting programme in Goa; the kids are very excited and the response has been overwhelming. Over 5,500 children have sent in applications to enter the testing programme, from every nook and corner of Goa from Bicholim to Canacona."

International sports marketing agency and event management company IMG will oversee the project. Based at the Nehru Stadium in Goa, the first four days of the program will see individual players and school groups aged between 10 & 16 years taking part in dribbling and ball control exercises under test conditions.

The tests have been specifically designed in conjunction with the Manchester United Youth Academy whose alumni include David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers, and are set up to accurately assess the ability of any individual player. MUSS coaches from the UK, working alongside coaches from the GFA, will conduct the tests using MUSS‘ specialist coaching equipment.

From each of the initial four days of the program, a small group of the most talented players will be selected to attend intensive training from 31 October - 2nd November.

These selected players will take part in a series of coaching sessions and small sided games with the objective of identifying talented young players capable of playing high quality, and technically sound football. Players selected for the second phase of the program will receive a full MUSS/Nike training kit plus, for a select few, the opportunity to attend the MUSS residential football school in the UK in 2008.

With the backing and support of many local schools, it is anticipated that up to 6,000 young players will take part in the initial stage of the program. All these youngsters will be given the opportunity to perform in this exciting arena, with a Manchester United ‘souvenir‘ being distributed to everyone taking part as a further memento of their experience.

Muss‘ first ever series of programs in India will be delivered as part of an initiative in place to develop young football players in the country, and will be delivered free of charge to all participants.

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