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Post Kabaddi, Ronnie Screwvala owned U Sports forays into football

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MUMBAI: After owning the Kabaddi franchise U-Mumba, in the first edition of the Pro Kabaddi League, Ronnie Screwvala owned U Sports, which is the sport division arm of Unilazer Ventures, has now forayed into another sports playground- football.

The company owned by Screwvala has launched a football training and academic programme ‘U-Dream’, to help develop Indian football players who are promising enough to place India on the professional football circuit. With collaborative guidance of Bundesliga, U Sports has partnered with TSG 1889 Hoffenheim for the first edition of U-Dream football.



The programme plans to encourage participation from talented football players of 13 or 14 years of age, in the first year where the focus is to transform young talent into a pro-team of Under-17 footballers. However, the search will widen to Under-13, Under-15 and Under-17 categories from the year 2016 onwards.



According to U Sports CEO Supratik Sen with over 20,000 football players across the globe earning more than $ 1 million a year, suggests that there are very few careers as exceptional as a professional footballers.



“Our alliance will set the ball rolling as it will help build a strong talent pool that will compete in the developed and evolved football market. The programme will also equip players with education and infrastructure support hence taking them closer to their dream of becoming a pro player. We hope to reach out to the finest Under-17 football talent who will represent India in Under-17 World Cup in 2017,” he added.



The programme will start with talent selection tournaments conducted between January and April 2015, across 50 cities which will see participation from 1000 schools. By the year 2016, the programme aims to deepen its reach by widening the search to 100 cities, registering participation from 2,000 schools. There will be an expert judging panel comprising project advisor Subrata Paul, chief of training Mahesh Gawli, and TSG Hoffenheim international advisor Lutz Pfannenstiel who will oversee the selection process to identify the players who will be sent to Germany for the six year residential programme. A team of five Indian coaches and three German coach/ scouts will closely monitor the tournaments in each city.



This year, only 30 footballers identified from a talent hunt will be sent to Zuzenhausen, in Germany where they will train at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim’s youth training academy with complete access to the club’s facilities and world-class infrastructure.



To ensure there is an equal focus on the young footballer’s academic development along with football training, U Sports has decided to collaborate with Motilal Nehru School of Sports, Rai. Founded by the government of Haryana, its primary objective is to provide education facilities with equal emphasis on sports to deserving students. The school will conduct a 10-day schooling camp for the 30 athlete students and their parents at the school campus prior to their departure where they will be briefed on the curriculum, course structure and programme tutors.



The 30 student athletes will undergo CBSE education coupled with German language training in the first year of the programme. In the second year, they will have an option to continue with CBSE schooling or apply for admission in the German Public Education system. The programme will also offer counseling to the players to help them decide on the course of action if they wish to opt for German education.



Hoffenheim head of match operations and first team administration Thomas Richter, who is also responsible for the club’s internationalization said, “Talent development at the grass-root level is paramount in Bundesliga and is the key in placing India in the international football circuit as this can serve as an opportunity to produce the finest football talent from the country, who are groomed from a young age.”



The programme is open to all school children of 13 or 14 years of age. Bonafide students born on or after 1 January 2000 but on or before 31 December 2001 can apply.

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