Success of Premier League Football Development Week lays the foundation for a bright future

The first-ever Premier League Development Week, conducted by the Premier League in association with the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL), the UK Department for International Trade (DIT) and Star Sports, concluded on Wednesday in Mumbai. The initiative was a part of the Premier League’s bid to strengthen its long-standing collaboration with the Hero ISL to further efforts directed towards the development of youth football in India.

The four-day long event, held from March 3-6, saw prominent personnel from club setups of Arsenal FC and Leicester City FC conduct a variety of educational and progressive workshop sessions during the course of the programme.

Another integral part of the event was the Premier League-Hero ISL Youth Games 2019, which included friendly matches between the youth teams of Arsenal, Leicester City, Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) and Hero ISL club Mumbai City FC. The participating players for the two Premier League sides belonged to the U-14 age group (birth years: 2004/05) while the two Indian sides consisted of players from the U-15 (birth years 2003/04) age group.

The matches, held at the Reliance Corporate Park in Navi Mumbai, witnessed some brilliant football put forth by the talented youngsters involved. In the two matches held on Tuesday (March 5), Mumbai City put on an inspired display to hold Leicester City to a goalless draw, while RFYC excelled in their fixture against Arsenal and came out as 3-2 winners after a thrilling match.

A total of four matches were scheduled for Wednesday (March 6). The two early fixtures saw Arsenal beat Mumbai City 2-0, while Leicester City edged past RFYC by a 2-1 scoreline. Leicester City triumphed 1-0 over Arsenal and RFYC scored a 5-0 victory over Mumbai City in the remaining two matches later on the same day to conclude the maiden Youth Games.

Given the pedigree of the Arsenal and Leicester City youth systems, the Youth Games presented the young talents of RFYC and Mumbai City FC an excellent opportunity to test their development against some of the best in the world and the boys made sure they gave a glowing account of themselves, while learning a lot in the process.

A number of eminent dignitaries were present for the event, including Premier League legend Les Ferdinand. Talking about the quality of youngsters on display, the Englishman said, "I’ve been impressed with what I've watched. I saw them today and I can see some good technical ability and obviously, the programs you've got in place are benefitting them well and I'm sure it is going to benefit them even more with the Premier League involved."

Premier League Director of Football Richard Garlick echoed Ferdinand's sentiments and had some warm words of encouragement for the budding youngsters. "I thought they were fantastic. The first match was an excellent match, Mumbai City FC were resolute in defence, Leicester City FC came unstrung towards the end but they put a fantastic strong defensive display. And what a match we had with the RFYC. It was a fantastic match, coming from 2-1 behind to win it 3-2. Fast, direct, attacking football - it was great to watch and if they continue playing like that, I’m sure they’ll win plenty of matches in the future," he added.

Speaking about the programme, Garlick stated, "We’ve had a co-operation partnership with the Hero ISL since 2014 and as a part of that, we’ve had exchange programs, we’ve done workshops. But over the last few months the Hero ISL have come to us and said that they’d like us to focus on youth development and so we’ve come up with a series of programs this week as part of our Football Development Week, where we’re going to be sharing knowledge of coaching, best coaching practices for young players, how to develop young players and also how to coach those players in a much more holistic point of view - not just from a technical and tactical point of view but from an emotional, physical and an educational point of view."

The resounding success of the inaugural Premier League Football Development Week was a glowing example of how the Premier League and Hero ISL’s collaborative efforts can help draw up a blueprint to guide Indian football towards a brighter and better future.

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