Liverpool Football Club, one of the world’s most famous football clubs with a huge following in Asia, on Wednesday announced the launch of its first official soccer academy in India. The Club, a domestic and European force since the Premier League began in 1992, has won seven major trophies since then, including the Champions League, Uefa Cup, two FA Cups and three League Cups. It aims to spread the “beautiful game” in the cricket crazy country and attract the youth to the sport.
The academy with the name ‘Steve McMahon Football Academy’ will be launched here in association with the British club, announced former England and Liverpool player Steve McMahon on Wednesday. Steve McMahon is a partner in the venture along with Liverpool and India’s Carnoustie Group, an infrastructure and hospitality company.
In the first leg four centres will be opened across Delhi and national capital region (NCR) with the Genesis school in Noida being the first, informed McMahon, who will be the head coach and chief mentor of the academy.
tribalfootball.com reported that the Reds, as Liverpool are known, had opened Abhijit Kadam Football Development Centre in a tie-up with the Abhijeet Kadam Memorial Foundation in Pune in 2009.
“I have been associated with this part of the world since last four-five years. The passion and commitment for the sport here is incredible. I approached my former club and they seemed to be interested too,” said McMahon.
“There has to be development programme for the aspiring kids, teaching them in the right way. And if even one of the kids from this academy makes a mark at the international level it will be a big achievement,” said the former football great, while insisting that things won’t happen overnight.
The Academy will be functional from the first week of October and envisages to enroll about 500 kids aged eight to 16 at each of its two centres.
“One of our goals as a team is to get the next Indian footballer to play, hopefully, for Liverpool Football Club,” said Mr. McMahon, who is a regular on Indian television screens as a, soccer pundit for ESPN Star Sports.
Asked why did the club chose Delhi instead of Kolkata, a city with much bigger fan base for the game, McMahon said, “It is just the beginning”. Liverpool will be looking for another campus in Delhi, and hopes to expand to Mumbai and Goa, as well as south and northeast India next year.
The football academy will be open to all and will charge a nominal amount as a fee from the kids. Scholarships will be provided to the talented kids. Profits, if any, will be spent into the development of infrastructure.
“Money is not the issue. We are not here for making money and if there is any profit it will be put into the development of infrastructre. The basic idea is to build a strong foundation and to help the youngsters grow properly,” he insisted.
Liverpool FC Soccer School Ambassabor, Steven Turner said it is great pleasure to step into India.
Turner said the club has got a huge fan base in Asia, including India, and the launch of a Liverpool Academy in the country is a way to bring a part of the international club to fans here.
The club will be investing its time and efforts in the upbringing of the sport in India and if we come across a talent, which deserves international exposure, we will put forward his case, informed Turner.
Meanwhile, McMahon said the current state of football in India was not a great one.
Emphasising upon the current ranking of the Indian football team, which is placed at 158th position in the international standings, McMahon said, “The sorry state of the game is also because of the lack of infrastructure. The team would definitely intend to make it better.”
He added that if the facility acts as a factor in improving the teams performance it will be a big plus.
McMahon said that though it is a private entity but it would welcome the prospect of working together with the All India Football Federation for the betterment of the game.
Mr. Turner who is also the head of Liverpool’s overseas academies, added that the club wants to have “a footprint in every continent in the next three years”.
He also hinted that Liverpool might tour India in 2013.
“There are lots of countries around the world that would love to host a game for Liverpool Football Club … we are trying to revisit Asia in 2013 and I’ve had several discussions with different people and we are trying to make a biannual visit to Asia,” Mr. Turner said.
“Bearing in mind that we are in the process of trying to develop something in India, it’s certainly not out of the question that India would be considered as a potential venue for the future,” he added.
In recent times, Indian businesses have also forayed into English soccer. Indian steel dynasty, the Mittal family, owns the remaining third of QPR, while Pune-based chicken company Venky’s bought Blackburn Rovers in November 2010, reported the Wall Street Journal.