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English Premier League trying to hone Indian skills

sports Updated: Feb 05, 2008 22:14 IST
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Former Premier League players have been helping on a skills programme in India with the aim of converting the cricket-mad nation to soccer.

Although cricket hogs the limelight, viewership for live soccer games is massive in India and officials behind the Premier Skills project hope this growing interest can be translated to the pitches.

"We want to give something back to the country that has supported the English Premier League over the years," former England and Newcastle defender Warren Barton told Reuters.

"Obviously, they have cricket which is strong but football is getting stronger, particularly at the grassroots level."

"It's about giving the kids an opportunity," he said. "They may not go on and play for Manchester United, but they can play at a good level in India."

Barton and ex-Jamaica midfielder Robbie Earle, both of whom are UEFA qualified coaches, spent Monday demonstrating their expertise to groups of boys, teaching them how to chest down the ball or side-step and shoot into a mini goal.

Barton said young Indian players should focus on sharpening their skills and not worry about their smaller physique.

India, twice Asian Games winners in the 1950s, are making attempts to revive soccer after a slump in the last two decades pushed the national team down to 144th in the world.

"In India, there is a move we are told, that football is just starting to grow," Earle said. "Children are growing up with football, getting excited by the prospect."