Mumbai: Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters FC reserve squads have arrived in the United Kingdom to participate in the Next Generation Cup, 2022 hosted by the Premier League. The tournament is part of the long-standing partnership between Premier League and Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) to support the development of football in India. The youth squads of the two Indian Super League clubs had qualified to compete in the international tournament by virtue of finishing in the top two in the inaugural Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) held earlier this year.
The eight-team Next Generation Cup features five Premier League club youth teams and one academy side from South Africa alongside Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters FC.
The teams will be divided into two groups and play their first match on July 27 in London and the Midlands.
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said, “The Premier League and our clubs look forward to welcoming players from Bengaluru FC and the Kerala Blasters FC for the Next Generation Cup, the first time the youth development tournament has been held in the UK.
“This event builds on our continued work with the Hero Indian Super League, to support the development and growth of football in India. It also provides a brilliant opportunity for young players from the Leagues to meet and compete against each other, learn about each other’s cultures and develop both on and off the pitch.
“I hope everyone taking part in the Cup at Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur’s first-team training facilities enjoys their experience and benefits from their involvement.”
Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) spokesperson said, “It gives us immense pleasure to see young Indian footballers gain international exposure and take their game to the next level. This will surely empower the emerging players to evolve as better footballers and lead the growth of football in the country.
“The FSDL-Premier League partnership has been a crucial step towards our commitment to globalise Indian football and we are thankful to the Premier League for being partners and resonating our vision towards the development and growth of the Indian football ecosystem.
“India has immense potential for football and we at FSDL strive to constantly strengthen the sport to establish the country as a global football powerhouse. We wish our players all the best for the tournament and hope this serves as a great learning experience for them.”
During the tournament, the Premier League and its clubs will also provide knowledge sharing workshops to best support the ISL clubs involved.
In addition, it will provide a chance for the young Indian footballers to experience playing in the UK and competing against academy sides from the most followed football league in the world.
Four Indian officials are also present in England, signalling the latest positive step of the Premier League and Professional Game Match Officials Limited’s (PGMOL) relationship with the Indian Super League (ISL) and All India Football Federation (AIFF).
This comes as result of an extensive period of collaboration which has also seen PGMOL deliver a number of referee development courses in India as part of the Premier League’s Premier Skills programme and wide-ranging support for match officials, their coaches and observers.
PGMOL Managing Director Mike Riley said, “We’ve enjoyed a beneficial and productive partnership with the Hero Indian Super League and the AIFF for a number of years now, with a strong focus on coaching and training their match officials both on and off the field.
“There’s been some fantastic progress made during that time and it is a pleasure to see that continue as we welcome four talented referees to the Next Generation Cup. I hope that they enjoy the experience and benefit from what promises to be a great tournament.”