Three-time world champion club Inter Milan on Friday joined the bandwagon of other European sides in organising grassroot level tournaments in the country with the launch of an Under 15 talent hunt programme.
Inter Milan chief executive Ernesto Paolillo announced the Tata Tea Jaago Re Inter Milan Soccer Stars tournament, which will be held in 15 cities across India starting from December 12 in Chandigarh.
The tournament, which is being held in partnership with Tata Tea, will be played across four zones and the final, to be competed by 15 teams, will be played in Shillong in April next year.
Thirty of the most talented school students aged between 10 to 15 will be selected for a two-week coaching in Kolkata by Inter Milan and Indian coaches.
Out of 30, 16 will be selected for another two-week training at the Inter Milan Academy in September. They will also play a youth tournament during their stay there.
The 15 cities where the tournament will be held are Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Delhi, Indore, Bhubaneswar, Kozhikode, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Akola, Kolkata, Goa, Lucknow, Gangtok and Shillong.
Paolillo said Inter Milan were in talks with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) for pre-season tour of India next year.
"I met the FICCI president today and they proposed a pre-season tour of Inter Milan in India. They said they will talk to All India Football Federation on matters like permission for a couple of matches in India," he told reporters at a press conference to launch the programme.
"We will study the proposal. Our season ends mid May and so we can think of such a tour in May and June (next year)," he said.
Paolillo said the logical aim of his club in future would be to launch an academy in India as has been done by European clubs like Liverpool.
"We are just making foray in India which has now increasingly become a huge football market. We will see how this programme is received. But of course we would want to set up academy in India as we have done in Abu Dhabi and Seattle," he said.
"We know clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool have big fan following in India. I think Inter Milan can also have big fan base here and we are looking at that," he added.
South Asia Regional President of Tata Global Beverages, Sanjiv Sharin said that over the years the participation of school children has increased since the Tata Tea Jaago Re programme was launched in 2007.
"Since inception, Tata Tea Soccer Stars has grown many folds and gone onto become the country's most comprehensive football development programme at grassroot level. This year it will attract more than 15,000 students from over 1000 schools across the country," he said.
The Tata Tea Jaago Re Soccer Stars programme was earlier held in partnership with English Premier League side Arsenal.