Blackburn Rovers, who were bought by Venky's last November, will be the first English Premier League team to play in India. The Blackburn players are visiting on July 23 to participate in the finals of a four-city mini tournament for under-16 boys to be held in Pune. The tournament will be held in the four cities - Goa, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune.
Blackburn Rovers will play alongside the Indian boys dividing themselves among the final eight teams from the four cities. Announcing the tournament details, B. Balaji Rao, Whole Time Director, Venkateshwara Hatcheries Group (Venky's), said: "The Company is committed to elevating footballing standards in India. This event is an attempt to develop football at the grassroot levels and create opportunities for young Indian footballers."
"We firmly believe that given the right training and opportunity, it is a matter of time before the next Rover's star will come from India. Exposing youngsters to the first team of Blackburn Rovers Football Club is merely a first step in this direction. The company has larger plans which it will disclose very shortly,"
"Youth following works both ways. One way of developing footballing standards is by gathering mass following for Blackburn Rovers in India. Following leads to aspirations and elevation of standards, and we want to make Rovers popular in India. It is our appeal to the Indian youth to come forward and reach out to Blackburn Rovers team and aspire to play alongside them very soon," Rao said.
The tournament is open to registered institutions, schools, academies and clubs with under-16 teams. Qualifying matches will happen in each of the four cities, and the winners of the qualifiers will travel to Pune for the final matches on July 23. The qualifying matches will be held in Goa on 8-9 July, Mumbai on 11-12 July, Kolkata on 16-17 July and Pune on 21-22 July.
Added to this, during the regional rounds, the football scouts from Venky's will choose 15 boys during who will be put through a short training session. Ten boys out of these will be selected to form a second team from the city. Thereby, a total of two teams from each city will go to the final matches in Pune on 23rd July.
The finals in Pune will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for the budding youngsters to play play alongside Blckburn Rovers football stars like Chris Samba, Paul Robinson, David Dunn, Brett Emerton, David Hoilett, Jason Roberts, Morten Gamst Pedersen, Michel Salgado, Martin Olsson, Steven Nzonzi and Ryan Nelsen.
There's more to the bonus for these lucky youngsters as the finals will also be attended by Blackburn Rovers scouts who will choose two boys for a 2-week training at the Blackburn Rovers Academy in Brockhall in United Kingdom.
Blackburn Rovers, formed in 1875, have been champions of England three times, the last occasion in 1995.