Coke to sponsor footballer Rai`s US training stint

Updated: Nov 05, 2012, 18:24 PM IST

New Delhi: Cola giants Coca Cola will be sponsoring talented India U-16 footballer Uttam Rai`s six-month training stint at Colorado Rush Football Academy in the United States.

The 15-year-old, who was spotted by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in 2009 at the Coca-Cola Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy, will also look to land himself a students scholarship during his training stint in the US that would allow him to stay on for a longer duration.

The Cola giants will be picking up the player`s tab for the airfare and stay in the US.

Coca Cola chief executive Atul Singh told IANS here Monday that football is not just a corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity for the company but serious business.

"Uttam is the find of the first Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy that Coca Cola sponsored. Now we are taking the endeavour forward. Football is not just a CSR activity for Coca Cola, but serious business," said Singh at the company`s headquarters in Gurgaon.

"It is a proud moment for us that Uttam will be training at the Colorado Rush Football Academy. This is a recognition of talent at the grassroots is very encouraging as India prepares to take the leap to the next level with the sport. We hope that there will be more recognition and many more opportunities from international clubs and associations," he said.

Uttam, who hails from Sikkim, said he was ready for the challenge and was looking at a fruitful training stint in the US.

"I have to make the best use of the six months. I hope to develop as a stronger footballer. It is a big challenge for me. I am thankful to all my coaches and specially Colin Toal (India`s youth development coach) for supporting me," he said.

Tim Schultz, president and chief executive of Rush Soccer, during a teleconference said it is a giant step for the game at the grass roots.

"Six months is a short time. So during his stint, we would like to get Uttam a sports scholarship programme so that he can stay for a longer duration and hopefully bag a professional contract in the future. But the gap is huge and that is what we are looking to fill. It will take a lot of sacrifice from Uttam to reach the top," he said.