Chelsea wants lasting legacy in India

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Kolkata, Nov 18: Roman Abramovich's Chelsea, due for their maiden visit to India, wants to establish a lasting legacy in the country from the grassroot level.

A three-member strong Chelsea delegation, including Chief Executive Peter Kenyon, former Blues star Graham Le Saux and Chelsea's Director of Communications&Public Affairs Simon Greenberg, will arrive in Delhi tomorrow on a two-day visit.

Although officially the Londoners are hitting the capital to promote the capital of the UK, football could not be far away.

Greenberg, on the eve of their arrival to India, told the sources via e-mail about Chelsea's interest in India and Asian soccer.

Asked was there a possibility of interacting with AIFF and the Indian government regarding soccer programmes, he said, '' We are having introductory meetings with AIFF officials and hopefully that will lead to introduction to the Government at some point. But things are at an early stage but of course we would like to take things further. '' He further added, '' India has great potential and our desire is for Asian football to challenge European football. That can only be good for the global game. '' On Chelsea's role in India, he said, '' We have not yet identified specific areas, this is very much an exploratory discussion and trip but we hope to learn quickly about Indian football and see what we can do to help. '' '' It's not about business as such, that is too simplistic. Of course there are business opportunities but we want to create those by having a partnership with football in Asia and that means helping to create a lasting legacy that from the elite game down to the grassroots, '' he explained, trying to describe Chelsea's role in India.

He, however, made it clear, '' We will have to wait and see but we are sure there is potential. '' He was also very optimistic of the British Council's efforts to promote football in India. Greenberg said, '' I was not aware of this specific initiative. We know the FAPL are looking to do programmes in India and of course Chelsea would be delighted to help if the scheme was right. '' Asked about the kind of programmes, the club was involved in with AFC, Simon said, '' We signed an agreement with the AFC last year to promote the Vision Asia programme. This is not about finance but using our experience in coaching, medical, youth development and community work to promote grassroots football. We will be involved in 10 city league programmes in total. '' He also informed that chelsea was one of the more popular football clubs among the Asian community back home. '' We are popular amongst the Asian community, but we are always looking to do more to encourage the community to engage more. At Chelsea we had the Young brothers who have Phillipino descent and have played for the Phillipines national team, but there is still no one at the moment from the Indian sub-continent or China, '' he said.

'' All English clubs would like to encourage more British Asians to play football and Chelsea is in the forefront of that. We have major links with Asian football. For example we have hosted the UK Asian Cup Final in the UK for the last 6 years and we sponsor a major football community award in the largest Asian awards in London, '' Simon said.

But he also made a point that there was only one Michael Chopra in the English Premier League. The Sunderland star had a moderate start to his EPL career with goals for Sunderland.

On how soon the people could see Chelsea showing some concrete interests in India, he said, '' We hope soon. But the first step is to have the right discussions with the right people and produce concrete proposals of substance that have a lasting effect. ''

UNI

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