Saturday, July 26, 2008

Arsenal Hunt New Talent From India

One of England's leading football clubs, Arsenal, says it will train 16 of India's talented school boys at its training facilities in London.

The boys, aged between 10 and 15, were selected after a two-week coaching programme held recently in Calcutta by Arsenal staff.The boys are flying out to begin their training at the club's Emirates Stadium, from next month.

Leading European football clubs are increasingly targeting India.Clubs like Arsenal - which is tied up with an Indian sponsor - see a huge market potential there.Most of the boys going to Arsenal cannot afford to buy their own kit.

Their heroes are not Indian cricketers, such as Saurav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, but Arsenal stars like Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Selected from across the country, the boys will be put through a development programme, called "The Arsenal Way".The club's Indian partners, Tata Tea, owners of Tetley Tea, say the objective is to give the children access to world-class training facilities.Arsenal say it is an opportunity to propagate the game in India.But in this cricket-crazy country, football has long been neglected.

Even though some Calcutta-based clubs have a tradition and history to match old clubs from around the world, footballers here are never accorded the status cricketers enjoy.The national football team's poor record does not help the matter.But things are changing. Young boys and girls wearing replica shirts of European clubs are becoming more of a common sight.

When the German league side, Bayern Munich, played in Calcutta recently, more than 100,000 people turned up to watch them.English clubs such as Manchester United and Chelsea realise that India's billion-plus population and growing economy could provide a huge TV audience.

However India's national coach, Englishman Bob Houghton, has often said:

European clubs are more interested in promoting their commercial interests than helping the game in India.

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