Udhagamandalam, March 23: The much-touted Bengal Football Academy, a brainchild of film star Mithun Chakravarty, will come into being on May 7.
``It's a dream come true for me,'' Mithun, an ardent football fan, told The Indian Express here on Tuesday. ``If everything goes right, the launching of the academy will give a shot in the arm for Indian soccer, which has been languishing in the shadows of cricket for quite a long time now.''
The academy will be run by a board of nine former Indian captains from Bengal, including Prasun Banerjee and Bhaskar Ganguly.
Olympian Pradeep Kumar Banerjee, presently the technical director of the National team, will be the advisor.
The academy will also kick off an extensive campaign to popularise the game all over the country. ``We plan to market the game more effectively and more professionally. I feel that Indian soccer badly needs proper marketing in order to compete with the rising popularity of cricket,'' said Mithun.
``First of all, we must realise thatsoccer, like any other game, is a commodity, which has to be sold intelliegently as elsewhere in the World. Professional marketing is the need of the hour. I hope we will be able to sell soccer better with the help of the sponsors.''
Thirty trainees in the age group of 12-16 will undergo training at the academy during the first year. ``I was really thrilled by the overwhelming response we got from the boys. There were more than 800 applicants. We had in fact expected only around 150 applications. This points to the fact that the new generation has not lost interest in the game.''
Of the lot, 82 have been shortlisted from the applicants after the preliminary trials. ``This will be pruned further and there will be 30 boys when the academy formally opens on May 7,'' said the National award-winning hero.
Mithun was thankful to the West Bengal government which has permitted the academy to use the Salt Lake Stadium for its activities.
The academy will have only trainees from within Bengal for the firstyear. ``However, we will go for talented boys from outside the state too in future. The government has promised to provide hostel facilities for these trainees. These boys would be given facilities to resume their educatiuon too.''
The academy hopes to generate Rs 50 lakhs for its functioning. Rs 30 lakhs has already been collected and the rest will come from the sponsors. ``Many industrial houses are coming forward to sponsor the boys. For example, the Peerless will take care of one or two trainees. The future of the boys, after undergoing the training is very important.''
Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.