The joint venture by Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) and IMG to develop, market and manage sports in India has turned out to be a boon for Indian football as the first part of their partnership with the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the group has decided to sponsor 16 India U-14 boys to spend nine months at the IMG Soccer Academy at Florida for nine months.
Back in March, when RIL and IMG announced their partnership, they decided to initiate a scholarship program which would identify Indian athletes with exceptional talent and thereby provided academic scholarships to their residential academy in the US.
It was in January this year that the AIFF held an U-14 festival in Jamshedpur from which the gifted ones were selected. These boys joined the U-13 team from last year and following a camp, the selected 22 boys were sent for the AFC U-14 festival in Iran in May where they managed to hold the hosts twice with the scoreline reading 1-1 and 2-2 respectively.
From these 22 players, 16 were chosen and shall be sponsored by Mukesh Ambani, the fourth richest man in the world according to Forbes, and the IMG group. The players have been summoned to attend a camp in Gurgaon from the 7th of next month until the 27th following which they shall depart for the US along with the coach. When Goal.com contacted the AIFF, they chose to remain mum on the deal.
The IMG Soccer Academy has seven soccer fields and their facilities are used by the Bradenton Academy who run the US Soccer Residency Program which has provided a steady flow of talent for the US national team with the likes of Landon Donovan, Oguchi Onyewu, Freddy Adu, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore coming through their ranks.
This deal marks a new era for sponsorship as it’s the first of its kind in football in India and it’s heartening to see corporates coming forward to support the cause of the most beautiful game.
Interestingly, six of the 16 boys are hailing from Punjab and Chandigarh while the traditional hubs of Indian football, West Bengal and Goa, contributing a player each.
Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Industries, RIL