Tata Trusts U Dream Football on Thursday announced a technical tie-up with top German club Borussia Dortmund by which 48 talented Indian children, mostly from the north east, are already getting football training under the club’s youth coaches in Bitburg, Germany.
Beginning January this year the first batch of trainees, 35 of them from the north eastern states of Mizoram (17), Manipur (15), Meghalaya (2) and Assam (1) and the rest from other parts of the country, are to spend ten months a year over six years in schooling and football training in Germany, it was announced at a media conference on Thursday.
“The depth of training in Germany is second to none. The biggest challenge for us was to convince parents that their children can have an alternative career in sports. We are aiming to increase the number to 200 with the help of the German Consulate,” said founder Ronnie Screwvala of U Dream which got into a partnership with the 125-year-old Tata Trusts last year.
Asked what was the pathway laid out for the young football talent after the end of six years, Screwvala said “It’s a 16-year relationship, six now and ten later.”
The boys are in the age group of 12-14 years and the aim of the programme is is to ensure that all enrolled players play professional football by placing them in clubs across Europe, the Americas and Asia, including India.
Former India captain Bhainchung Bhutia said India needed to do a lot more grassroots programme in football while adding “definitely there has been improvement over the last three years” in this respect.
“The FIFA Under 17 World Cup (to be hosted by India this October), is a start, but we need to make more kids play football for more talent to come up,” he said at a panel discussion.
As per the programme currently charted, each week the trainees play games against top-ranked youth sides in the region as well as those in Belgium and Luxembourg and so far the team has won 15 out of 20 games and lost three.
“We have been approached by the All India Football Federation to allow them to include 6-7 players as probables in the Indian World Cup Under 17 squad, but we have asked for a trial game between them (the current India probables) and us,” said one of the persons connected with the programme.