Chhetri turns mentor in talent hunt programme

Fifteen shortlisted boys, between the age group of eight and 14, will be housed at the Dr Cyrus Poonawala International School in Kolhapur for a five-year programme.

Sunil Chhetri believed the exposure and aid from experts will be a boon for the young footballers.   -  Vivek Bendre

India captain Sunil Chhetri has been roped in as the mentor and brand ambassador of a nationwide talent hunt cum grooming programme for aspiring footballers. Chhetri’s association with the programme, titled ‘DreamChasers’, along with the involvement of Sporting Clube de Portugal, was announced during a media interaction here on Wednesday.

“I am going to be part of all major decisions taken. I will try and spend time with the kids whenever I can,” Chhetri told.

“They will be provided the best possible training. Everything will be provided for, the nutrition, the academic facilities and the best infrastructure for training. The most important thing is coaching.”

The programme is a brainchild of Proforce, a sports management start-up by three former army men. The talent hunt will be held in 15 venues across 10 cities. Fifteen shortlisted boys, between the age group of eight and 14, will be housed at the Dr Cyrus Poonawala International School in Kolhapur, a city in western Maharashtra, for a five-year programme.

A coach from SCP, renowned for its grooming techniques all over the football world, will be stationed in Kolhapur to monitor the progress of each of the 15 aspiring footballers. The trainees will also be flown to the club’s academy in Lisbon for a month every year.

Chhetri, who was contracted with the Portugal club for two years, believed the exposure and aid from experts will be a boon for the young footballers.

“When I went to Sporting Lisbon, I was 26 and had a four-year deal, I was there for seven months and I just played six games. I was improving and enjoying my time over there with the training and the kids I was playing with,” he said.

“It was a great team but the guys who I played with were 17, 18 and 19 years of age and I was 26. I wish I was 16-17 then and I would have stayed for four years.”

The talent hunt will be organised in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Kolhapur (Maharashtra), Baroda, Gandhinagar (Gujarat), Kerala, Delhi, Kolkata (Bengal) and Guwahati (Assam).