World's premier football club FC Barcelona on Wednesday announced its foray into grassroot development of the game in India with an ambitious talent scouting project which will start early next year.
In its first sporting venture in India, the European and Spanish champion side will conduct a week-long football camp in the National Capital Region in January next year for youngsters between 6-14 years of age. FC Barcelona coaches will spearhead the camp.
The camp will be open to all interested children on first-come-first-serve basis. FC Barcelona coaches will also train Indian coaches so that the method of training and style of play of the famous club is imparted to the youngsters in the country.
"We are offering world-class training under the same successful methodology that has produced leading football stars like Pique and Victor Valdes. India is an important and strategic country for FC Barcelona given their growing interest in football," Xevi Marce, Director of FCBEscola, the feeder school to the club's world famous youth academy La Masia, said at a press conference.
"The training offers participants a chance to live and experience the FC Barcelona way for a week under the expert guidance of our coaches. For the India camps, the FCBEscola technical team of four-five coaches will travel from Spain to oversee participation and execution of the camps.
"The training camp will serve as a major stepping stone for the participants to move to higher training. It will provide youth access to highest level of football training and development," he added.
Marce refused to make tall claims but said that depending on the response and success of the camps, an official FC Barcelona school could be set up in India, which may lead to talented players making their way to La Masia.
"We will not make tall claims. We will see the progress of the camps. We will bring 4-5 coaches from Spain for the camps and will also coach 15-20 Indian coaches every week so that they can continue the camps," Marce said.
"The natural progression from the camps will be to set up FCBEscola, the official football school of FC Barcelona. This is the trademark after school intensive training programme that trains players year round, three times a week. It caters specifically to players aged 6-14, prepares them for the rigours of professional football and is a major feeder school to the club's world class academy, La Masia," he said.
Asked why FC Barcelona decided to foray in India where the profile of football is low and that too after other major European sides like Arsenal, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Chelsea had done the same, Marce said, "We respect the initiative of other clubs. We thought this is the moment to develop football in India so we are here."
"We are not crazy about quick expansion and we will go step by step. We would like as many children as possible to take part in the camps. After that we will see what to do and how to expand. That will also depend on the sponsors our Indian partners can bring," he said.
Manit Jain, a representative of the Heritage School Gurgaon, a partner in the project, said that in the first year they aim to train 10,000 students in the NCR region and would then think of expanding in other regions of the country.
"We are going step by step. Our aim is to train 10,000 students in the first year in Gurgaon and NCR. Next year, we are aiming to expand in all the other metros and the third year we will spread to all A-class cities," Jain said.
Anu Jain, Director of Conscient Football, one of the partners and a grassroot football initiative, said that the project has a long-term vision and tournaments will be conducted after the camps.