The RSS is now banking on football to reach out to youths in the state, with its sports wing Keeda Bharati organising a statewide U-17 school football tournament. Winners of the tournament will receive tickets to the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017, which is scheduled to be held in India from October 6. The move is also meant to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s iconic Chicago speech. Kreeda Bharati will be organising the tournament with Ekalavya, a sports foundation.
West Bengal has become one of the areas of interest for the RSS, which had passed a resolution in March this year at the ‘Akhil Bhatiya Pratinidhi Sabha’ in Coimbatore, expressing “grave concern” over the “rise of fundamentalism and communal violence” in the state.
“We are trying to promote football and the spirit of youth in Bengal. We have joined hands with Ekalavya foundation. September 11 is the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekan- anda’s Chicago speech, which will be commemorated through the tournament. This is apart from the fact that FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 is being hosted by India this year,” said Supraj Ghosh, secretary (Kolkata Mahanagar) of Kreeda Bharati as well as the tournament committee.
A press conference and match lottery is scheduled to be held on August 22 in a Salt Lake hotel, where former national footballers and IFA officials will be present. According to organisers, the tournament will consist of under-17 teams from schools across the state, and has been named ‘The Kolkata Cup’.
The tournament will initially consist of two clusters — Schools within Kolkata will compete among themselves in one, and schools from other districts will compete in the other. The winners of both clusters will meet in the finals in Kolkata, scheduled to be held at the East Bengal Football Club’s ground.
Among those organisers are planning to invite to the finals are Union Sports Minister Vijay Goyal, Uttar Pradesh Sports Minister and Kreeda Bharati national head Chetan Chauhan and West Bengal Sports Minister Arup Biswas. They are also planning to invite current and former Indian football players from the national and international level throughout the tournament.
St Xavier’s Collegiate School, St Augustine’s Day School, Calcutta Boys’ School, Hindu School, Shyambazar A V School, Heritage School, and La Martiniere will be among the schools participating in the Kolkata cluster. The tournament will take place on the grounds of famous football clubs in Kolkata, including East Bengal and Mohun Bagan Sporting Club, apart from the grounds of St Augustine’s Day School.
“The tournament will also be a talent hunt. Our scouts and former national players will be present in every match to pinpoint talent. Talented boys will be given a chance to train with national clubs such as East Bengal and Mohun Bagan through the foundation,” said Ghosh.