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Bend it like Beckham: How Maharashtra will promote football among 1 million students

Mumbai city news: Selfie points will be created at public places, malls and railway stations to fuel the football frenzy

mumbai Updated: Jul 15, 2017 00:35 IST
Puja Pednekar
Puja Pednekar
Hindustan Times
Mumbai city news,football,Mumbai schools
More than 1 lakh footballs will be distributed — three in each school. (HT File Photo)

Ahead of the FIFA U-17 World Cup to be hosted in India in October, the Maharashtra government will teach school students to bend it like Beckham. The state’s school education and sports department has launched a special drive to encourage students to take up football. More than 10 lakh students across 25, 000 educational institutes are likely to participate in the Maharashtra Football Mission.

Six of the World Cup matches will be played in Navi Mumbai’s DY Patil stadium. Keeping this in mind, a government resolution was issued on Tuesday to try and get upper primary and secondary schools and college students interested in the game.

In the first phase, which will be completed by July 15, school and colleges with football teams and grounds will be identified and their students trained professional football. Players must be older than nine.

Selfie points will be created at public places, malls and railway stations to fuel the football frenzy. “The idea is to get youngsters interested in football before the World Cup, which is a big international sports event for India. The objective is to promote an active lifestyle and a healthy diet among children,” said a senior education official.

Teams will be created and players will receive special coaching. Schools will be classified on the basis of facilities available for the players. Two to three day workshops will be held to train teachers and coaches from these schools. A list of football experts and coaches in the district will be drawn up. More than 1 lakh footballs will be distributed — three in each school.

A district-level football tournament will be organised on August 29. The GR has set up an expert committee comprising education officials and football experts.

Mumbai schools said they are excited about the programme, but were unsure if it was a token gesture that would even continue after the World Cup. “Football is popular among teenagers, many of them follow European leagues and support clubs,” said Yogesh Patel, director of Swami Vivekananda Schools, Gorai and Malad, which recently installed turfs in their campuses.

However, schools said they should not be used to promote a sport for commercial gains. Patel. “If the government is serious, they should help schools develop sports grounds, give students scholarships and hold regular camps,” said Patel.

Other tournaments will be held throughout the year: an under-17 tournament will be organised in August for the newly formed teams to test their mettle; drawing competitions and football festivals will also be held in September. A special tournament for U-13 players will be held in November

First Published: Jul 13, 2017 09:17 IST