Indian Super League’s Chennaiyin FC to sponsor five AIFF graduates heading to FC Metz academy

The MS Dhoni co-owned ISL team will have give complete sponsorship to the five elite academy boys heading to FC Metz academy trials.

Chennaiyin FC were one of the last clubs to enter the Indian Super League (ISL) after Bengaluru’s representatives pulled out as a franchise, but in a first for any Indian club, the southern Indian franchise have taken complete responsibility and sponsored FIVE All India Football Federation (AIFF) elite academy prospects on a developmental stint with FC Metz ‘s academy in France.

Anirudh Thapa, Prosenjit Chakraborty and Jerry Lalrinzuala, Baoringdao Bodo and Bedashwar Singh, all AIFF Elite Academy graduates and serial representatives of India on the national stage right from the U14 to the U19 age groups, had been selected in further progress their development at the famed French club’s academy, in April.

To this effect, the Abhishek Bachchan co-owned franchise has taken it upon themselves to ensure that the youngsters have a safe and secure stay in the northeastern French city of Metz, where the academy is located, and have decided to sponsor the kids for everything – from stay to food and travel- in France.

Whats more, the ISL franchise will continue to support the fledglings for a period of one year during their stay. The five prospects will have a stint U-19 team of the 84 year-old French club which plays in the Ligue 2.

Thapa, a midfielder by metier and a Dehradun resident, is 18 years old. Lalrinzuala, plays in defense and is only 17 whilst Chakraborthy is also a promising defender and a West Bengal native, also of the same age. Bodo is an Assamese forward and will be 17 in October while Bedashwar Singh is a promising Manipuri forward.

FC Metz’s academy is well revered through France and Europe. They have, over the years, produced talent such as Miralem Pjanic, an AS Roma midfield lynchpin, Franck Ribery, a France and FC Bayern Munich winger, and Louis Saha, a former Manchester United striker and Premier League winner.

Speaking on the development, the Indian FA’s President Praful Patel revealed, “Even ISL clubs are completely investing in grassroots development. Chennaiyin FC will completely sponsor all five boys heading to France for their stay in the European nation. This is a noble gesture on their part. They are the first club to do so.”

Credit has to be apportioned to the 2015 ISL champions’ CEO Rahul Patil who initiated talks for the sponsorship of the five boys and successfully led his club in following through with it.

Of the stint initially, Patel had said, “FC Metz is one of the great Academies not only in France but in Europe and it is a dream of every aspiring Indian Player to rub shoulders with the best in the business. There are important baby steps in the right direction for the growth of Indian Football. The idea is to develop from a young stage.

“This is only a beginning and I am sure that there will be many more initiatives such as these. We want young talent to be promoted,”

The ISL team’s gesture is a powerful one and no doubt several other clubs will look to follow suit in their grassroots initiatives.

– Nikhil Jitendran


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