The government on Saturday initiated the Under-19 Football Talent Hunt tournament, in association with the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF), to build the tempo for the Under-17 FIFA World Cup to be held in India from October 6.
The Talent Hunt tournament will kick off across the country on May 1 and will be held under the aegis of the All India Police Sports Control Board in coordination with CAPF and Assam Rifles.
Former India captain Kapil Dev was announced brand ambassador of CAPF. Kapil said the event will provide a favourable atmosphere for growth of football. “At the moment, the focus should be to provide an opportunity to youngsters to expand their energy on the playfield. There is enthusiasm for football in the country, but few take up the sport,” he said, adding “hopefully the initiative to organise the CAPF tournament will act as a catalyst and make football more popular in the country.”
Former striker Bhaichung Bhutia, who was among several elite sportspersons present on the occasion, said the national-level tournament will create more awareness for football. “It’s important to reach out to more people. It might inculcate sports culture in the country,” he added.
Home minister Rajnath Singh said, the emphasis is to take football to each and every part of the country. “The tournament is part of the government project to reach 11 million youth. It will also help scout talent to strengthen the national squad,” he said, adding, sports has the power to bridge the gap between communities.
On the occasion, the organisers also unveiled the logo — Oorja (energy) --- and mascot -- Gabru – of the tournament. They also roped in playback singer Sukhvinder Singh to compose the tournament anthem.
The preliminary-round matches, to be organised across the country, are expected to reach out to more than 12,000 students. The competition, spread over three months, also carries a prize money of R20 lakh and will culminate in the Capital in July.
Among those present on the occasion were India’s double Olympic Games medallist, wrestler Sushil Kumar, five-time world champion and Olympic Games bronze-medallist MC Marykom, footballer IM Vijayan and badminton coach Pullela Gopichand.