Premier League keen to aid football development in India: Neil Saunders | Football News

PANAJI: ATK Mohun Bagan’s 1-1 draw against West Ham United in the Next Gen Cup earlier this week was acclaimed in India and England. Last year, when India’s youth teams traveled to the UK for the tournament, Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters FC fell miserably short, losing by heavy margins to their premier league opponents. Tottenham Hotspur, for example, scored seven against KBFC, while BFC lost 3-6 to Leicester City. In Mumbai this week, Indian clubs are battling it out.
“The draw against West Ham, one of our best age group teams in the Premier League, is a good indicator,” said the Premier League director of football, Neil SaundersTOI said Thursday.
“We had Under-12 teams (initially), then we moved to the Next Gen Cup with Under-14s and the level was comparable. As you get into the older age group, with the level of competition, professionalism and quality of the Premier League, you can see the gap increase. But the fact that we are able to bring in the Under-19 age group (teams) shows that progress has been made in the development of Indian players.
The Premier League has entered into a mutual cooperation agreement with the Indian Super League (ISL) which aims to assist in the development of players, coaches and referees. The Next Gen Cup pits Indian clubs against English and South African teams.
Besides West Ham, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton are currently in India.

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“This partnership, confirmed in us to try to grow the game in India, has given us many opportunities, most recently the Next Gen Cup. We have an amazing fan base watching the Premier League in India. We want to attract more fans around the world and continue to grow the game. The co-op agreement is our commitment to do that,” Saunders said.
The second edition of the Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) saw over 50 teams competing for national and international honours, playing over 300 competitive matches during the two-month tournament. It’s a welcome change from last season when the tournament was limited to eight ISL teams.
The Premier League, Saunders said, remains keen to support the development of football in India, specifically focusing on the development of players, coaches and referees.
“The Next Gen Cup provides hands-on experience of top level matches and it is part of our commitment to try and support the development of the game in India. We have invested in this partnership for a number of years and have already seen the growth,” Saunders said.


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