Coca-Cola to expand football talent hunt in India with eye on future (Lead)

May 20th, 2009 - 2:49 pm ICT by IANS  

By Abhishek Roy
Johannesburg, May 20 (IANS) Coca-Cola, which conducts grassroots level talent hunt to build future football stars in 25 countries, will expand a similar initiative in India to cover 50 cities with the aim of producing top-drawer soccer talent who can represent the country.

The joint venture of the global beverage major with the All-India Football Federation (AIFF) was restricted to the under-16 age-group last year in eight cities, but will now encompass the under-18 group as well.

As part of the eight-city national initiative last year, 16 promising footballers were picked from a pool of 3,000 aspirants who were put through a massive 272-match programme. The players from 184 schools in the eight cities went through a regimen of physical, technical, mental and skill tests as part of selection process.

A 16-member Dream Team was picked to attend a week-long camp in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil along with youngsters from 20 other countries.

Deepak Jolly, Coca Cola’s vice-president Public Affairs and Communications ((India), said all state and district football associations will also be involved in the programme this year.

“Last year we had the programme in eight cities and it was a great success. We took 16 boys to the Coca Cola Football Camp in Rio de Janerio and they did well. This time we want to do the programme in two age groups and we are in discussions with the AIFF to make it a joint initiative so that we could keep the 16 boys together for a longer period,” said Jolly, who is here to show around the success of the programme in South Africa to a group of Indian journalists.

“It is very important to keep the boys together. We had a similar programme here in South Africa and four players are now playing in the national team. So the idea behind the programme is to keep the guys together and prepare them to be good enough to play for India,” Jolly told IANS.

The Indian programme will be launched in the next couple of months.

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