Sunil Chhetri extends support to bolster grassroot programmes

New Delhi: National team captain Sunil Chhetri on Friday lent his name to the collaboration between Eric Benny`s Edukick Sports and French Ligue 1 club F C Metz, which has one of the best youth development programmes in Europe, with hope that it will benefit Indian football.

Some of the prominent names to have come out of the F C Metz stable are Robert Pires, Louis Saha, Emmanuel Adebayor, Papiss Cisse and Miralem Pjanic, enough to attract India`s attention.

A unique initiative called `My Chance`, will help identify indigenous grassroot talent in India and sponsor their training at the FC Metz Centre de Formation in France.

With India just three years away from hosting the Under-17 FIFA World Cup, Chhetri is thrilled that grassroot and youth development programmes are hogging all the limelight.

"In my 13 years of football, I have always believed in nurturing talent from a very young age," Chhetri told reporters at the All India Football Federation (AIFF) headquarters here.

"This is just amazing. The focus on youth development and grassroots, and with the U-17 World Cup three years away this is just ideal," added the skipper who led Bengaluru FC to the I-League triumph in only its maiden season.

Speaking further about the programme, Chhetri said, "I am happy and jealous at the same time. When I was growing up, I could never imagine such exposures. I could never imagine training in one of Europe`s top academies and under the tutelage of well-known footballers like Pires."

The ace striker was happy to see Indian youngsters in the Metz academy doing the "basics" correctly.

"I was in France to see the kids who have been selected from the grassroot programme of this management company. The best get this opportunity and I was so pleasantly surprised to see the youngsters doing the basics correctly.

"Lot of them try fancy things first but with proper grooming, which these lucky few at Metz are receiving, the basics should be in order first. That`s very important. Football is a simple game," the brand ambassador for Eric Benny`s Sports Management Company said.

Stressing on the importance of such programmes in modern-day football, Chhetri said, "Everyone wants to do well, but no one knows how. This collaboration with Eric Benny Sports Management is a small step towards a greater cause."

He then emphasised on providing education, right values and discipline to the players, as he believes that these things will help a player go on and also become a better human being.

"Over the years I have seen many players vanishing because they did not have the discipline and the right values," said Chhetri.

AIFF secretary Kushal Das lauded the initiative.

"We at AIFF are precisely focusing on what Sunil and Eric Benny with his sports management company had been stressing on. Grassroots development is top on AIFF`s agenda. We have tied up with the Federation of Australia (FFA), then we have grassroot programmes running in seven to eight states across the country.

"AFC has also acknowledged our efforts as one of the best grassroot programmes of Asia. We have four academies running between the age groups of 14 to 16, with an elite academy also. So I believe we are all on the same page today," said Das.

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