English Premier League club Liverpool stepped into India on Wednesday with their first soccer academy in the national capital.
As a part of the initiative, the Steve McMahon Football Academy, named after former Liverpool and England mid-fielder, will be operating from the Genesis Global School, Noida, from October 1. The academy will employ coaches from Liverpool as well as Indian coaches to impart training to children. The club also plans to open centres in Mumbai, Goa and in southern India in the next 18 months.
"The Academy will begin enrolling kids in the age-groups of under-8, under-10, under-12, under-14 and under-16. We plan to open two academies this year and can have up to 500 kids across all age-groups at each centre. The more, the better, that only means we'll need more coaches," said McMahon, who is the head coach of the Academy.
McMahon said the project was not "money-driven" and it is an honest effort by the club to improve the standard of football in India.
"It's going to take time but we are not here for a quick-fix. We are here for a long time. We are in India to teach football the Liverpool way. I think it is the best way," he said.
Liverpool's brand ambassador Ian Rush, a former Wales and Liverpool striker, said the game needs support from all sections of the society, and boys and girls take to the game in good numbers.
"It is difficult to foresee changes for the better. But first, we need enthusiastic youngsters to train and play with smiling faces. India became number one in Test cricket due to various reasons. We want to help generate similar reasons for football, too, in this country," said Rush, who scored 346 goals in 660 appearances for Liverpool.
Steve Turner, head of Liverpool FC International Football Academy, said the club is also exploring similar opportunities in China.
"China is next and we are also in discussions for potential partnerships in South America, United States, Canada, Vietnam and also Malaysia," Turner added.