In a major boost for Indian football three India U-19 National Team players of the All India Football Federation Academy will be leaving Indian shores to train with French club side FC Metz.
Anirudh Thapa, Prosenjit Chakraborty and Jerry Lalrinzuala, who have all been through AIFF’s Youth Development Programme since their U-14 days and are an integral part of the Indian U-19 National Team, have been selected for a stint with the U-19 Team of the French club side which plays in the Ligue 2.
The boys would be reviewed after every three months with the maximum stint staying a possible two years.
The announcement came on Wednesday (April 20) at the French Embassy in the Capital where AIFF President Praful Patel along with the Ambassador of France to India François Richier, AIFF’s General Secretary Kushal Das and FC Metz Director Denis Schaeffer, presented the boys in front of the media.
Speaking at the occasion, Patel said: “FC Metz is one of the great Academies not only in France but in Europe and it is a dream of every aspiring Indian player to rub shoulders with the best in the business. There are important baby steps in the right direction for the growth of Indian football. The idea is to develop from a young stage.”
“This is only a beginning and I am sure that there will be many more initiatives such as these. We want young talent to be promoted,” the AIFF President added.
“We thank FC Metz for this initiative and after the three months the kids will be reviewed. And I am sure that they will come out with flying colors in the review, and if they do, we will continue to support them.”
“The review will be if they are the right material to pursue their journey in France and we will decide for them that how long they will have to continue this journey. It could be three months or even two years. What we want to develop is young talent by putting them into top arenas and using them later for the National Teams,” Patel quipped.
Sitting besides Patel, the French Ambassador Richier said: “I have always shown my support to the extra ordinary work that FC Metz are doing. The club are welcoming and have trained dozens of youngsters.”
“AIFF’s coordination with FC Metz will go even further. The French Government wants this to succeed and I want to see as many Indian professional players in Europe,” the Ambassador maintained.
Meanwhile, AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das touted FC Metz as a “healthy and safe environment for the boys to develop.”
“We wanted a place where the kids would develop as players whilst being in a nurturing environment and FC Metz offers us that. The boys are from our Academy in Goa for 1998 born players,” Das informed.
“The three boys will also receive a good education and will be tutored in French. I want to thank Mr. Eric Benny for this initiative and I hope that this works successfully.”
“The three boys already have international experience and we hope to develop them into better players. We want to give them an opportunity to train and see European,” Schaeffer, Director, FC Metz pronounced.
“I am very excited to see these boys on the pitch as our aim now is to give them an opportunity to reach the highest level possible. We will do our best to help them.”
“I hope that the players will have a wonderful experience and I am honoured to be a part of Indian development,” he admitted.
Over the years, FC Metz have produced the likes of Robert Pirès, Franck Ribéry and Louis Saha and according to the FC Metz Director it all depends on training at the highest levels.
“It is important to train at the highest level and to improve you have to consistently train at the highest level every day. Our aim is to offer the boys that. The boys will train with our players and we will review them for a professional contract.”
“This is not a trial,” he clarified.
“This is the first time we are sponsoring our Academy boys and this initiative will expand as we want more and more youngsters like them to go out and train. This is a step in the direction to build players who otherwise won’t have the means to go,” Patel opined. “This is not the first and last set of players that will be going. We want more and more players to go and train abroad in good circumstances. This initiative should be looked as letting our players train with the best academies in the world.”
Thanking the French Ambassador, Patel said, “We have the support of the French Government and all these measures help you build confidence. I thank the French Ambassador for his continuous support and the MOU which we have with the French Football Federation and this initiative with FC Metz will help us go a long way.”
(Report & Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)