BENGALURU: A Bengaluru Under-17 football team has emerged champions in a tournament in England, against three Indian and one British school teams. The 16 students from different schools were playing at the first edition of Premier Explore Cup 2016, organised by a UK-based travel company Premier Explore.
A former English Premier League player Darren Sean Barnard selected teams from four cities — Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru and New Delhi. Barnard, who is now a manager and a coach, was a wing back and midfielder from 1989 until 2010, notably in the League for both Chelsea and Barnsley.
Forty footballers underwent an intense six-day training session at the Manchester City Football Academy with the leading club’s coaches. The boys also toured and played futsal at St George’s Park Centre, run by one of the oldest football associations in England. Another highlight, of the eight-day experience, was playing at City of Manchester Stadium (also known as Etihad Stadium). This is the third-largest stadium in Premier League.
Mohammad Dhaisam was the Bengaluru team captain. One of the two students selected from Ebenezer School, he says, “The coaches had come to Bengaluru in the beginning of this year for selection... All the teams played well in the tournament.” Kolkata was the toughest contender, according to the students. They were the runners-up.
Kirthan Shaker from Delhi Public School says that day one of coaching in Manchester was revelatory. “We realised that we lacked coordination,” he says. But they defeated the English team. “The second match against Mumbai was an easy win,” says Kirthan. “Then we were confident of winning.”
It was a “life-changing experience” for Anirudh Madhava Mugalihal, a student of Jnanaswikar PU College. He took his first flight, for this trip, and says, “They treated us like professionals... I learned discipline and how to deal with things.”
The students underwent coaching in India first. The brothers Maahir Aszaskazi and Raashid Aszaskazi who run Bangalore Soccer Academy trained eight students for the tournament for eight days. Maahir says, “It was just a basic coaching of how to attack and defend yourselves... The first two to three classes were focused only on fitness and team-building exercises as there were students from different schools.”
Next year, the company plans to organise a tournament with eight Indian cities including Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai and Kerala.