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    Manchester United Soccer Schools’ to provide expertise for the programme

    Goa, India October 24, 2007: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Bharti Airtel today announced the launch of KICK OFF, an innovative talent identification and development programme designed to help find young footballing talent in the Goa region. This programme has been designed using the expertise of Manchester United Soccer Schools’ (MUSS) world famous football coaching programmes.

    An announcement in this regard was today made in Goa, where a project will commence this month and mark the beginning of what many hope will be India’s first step on the journey to world footballing status and participation in the major international football tournaments.

    According to Mr. Alberto Colaco, General Secretary, AIFF, “On behalf of the AIFF, I am delighted to welcome children to take part in our KICK OFF initiative. We have a bold vision for the future of football in India and this exciting scheme will only help to accelerate our progress on the world stage. We are also delighted to welcome Manchester United Soccer Schools to India – their worldwide reputation for youth development precedes them. We are most appreciative of the support shown by the Goa Government and by Bharti Airtel. Both parties share our vision for the future and our belief in the opportunity to improve the standards of Indian football. We wish the children taking part every success in what should be a memorable experience for them. “

    Mr. Manu Talwar, CEO – Mobile Services, Maharashtra & Goa, Bharti Airtel added, “Bharti Airtel is proud to be associated with KICK OFF.  Football is the most popular sport in the world and this outstanding initiative will go a long way in promoting a rich football and sporting culture in Goa. We believe that the talent exists in Goa and we need to identify and nurture it through such initiatives.”

    To deliver the vision of AIFF and Bharti Airtel, a  coordination committee has been formed, which will be headed by the Director of Sports, Government of Goa, Dr. Susana D'Sousa; Executive Director, Sports Authority of Goa, Mr. V. M. Prabhu Desai and the Honorary Secretary of Goa Football Association, Mr. Savio Messias.

    Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United Football Club said, “At Manchester United we place great emphasis on developing young players and I am proud to continue to play a part in this. It has been part of the tradition of the club since the days of Sir Matt Busby and is something we remain very much focused on today, whether bringing players through the Academy or coaching young players at our Manchester United Soccer Schools. We believe that through Manchester United Soccer Schools we can take the heritage of the Club and our football philosophy around the world. It's clear to see that with such a huge population in India the potential for football to grow is enormous, and we are delighted to be involved in the further development of the game here. Hopefully we can play a part in the vision of accelerating this development of young players in India, and helping youngsters to achieve their own potential through playing sport.”

    From 27th October – 2nd November 2007, as part of a combined initiative involving AIFF, GFA, Bharti, Department of Sports and the Sports Authority of Goa, KICK OFF will provide the opportunity for thousands of aspiring young soccer players within the Goa region of India to undertake a series of skills tests. A coaching team from Manchester United Soccer Schools will supervise the programme, assisted by Brian McClair, The Head of Manchester United’s Youth Academy. Brian played 470 times for Manchester United during a distinguished career in which he scored 127 goals for the club.

    Dr. Susanna De Sousa, Director of Sports and Youth Affairs, Goa said, "The MUSS pilot project is the best thing that could have ever happened to Goan football. Most importantly to our budding talent and aspiring future football champions. Hats off to MUSS UK and thank you for your commendable support and contribution to football and sports at large."

    Commenting on KICK OFF Goa, Savio Messias, Secretary, Goa Football Association said, "It's fantastic to have MUSS doing a talent spotting programme in Goa; the kids are very excited and the response has been overwhelming. Over 5,500 children have sent in applications to enter the testing programme, from every nook and corner of Goa from Bicholim to Canacona."

    IMG, the international sports marketing agency and event management company, will oversee the project.  Based at the Nehru Stadium in Goa, the first four days of the program will see individual players and school groups aged between 10 & 16 years taking part in dribbling and ball control exercises under test conditions.

    The tests have been specifically designed in conjunction with the Manchester United Youth Academy whose alumni include David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers, and are set up to accurately assess the ability of any individual player. MUSS coaches from the UK, working alongside coaches from the GFA, will conduct the tests using MUSS' specialist coaching equipment.

    From each of the initial four days of the program, a small group of the most talented players will be selected to attend intensive training during the dates 31st October – 2nd November.

    These selected players will take part in a series of coaching sessions and small sided games with the objective of identifying talented young players capable of playing high quality, and technically sound football. Players selected for the second phase of the program will receive a full MUSS/Nike training kit plus, for a select few, the opportunity to attend the MUSS residential football school in the UK in 2008.

    With the backing and support of many local schools, it is anticipated that up to 6,000 young players will take part in the initial stage of the program. All these youngsters will be given the opportunity to perform in this exciting arena, with a Manchester United "souvenir" being distributed to everyone taking part as a further memento of their experience.

    Manchester United Soccer Schools' first ever series of programs in India will be delivered as part of an initiative in place to develop young football players in the country, and will be delivered free of charge to all participants.

    About Bharti Airtel Limited:

    Bharti Airtel Limited, a group company of Bharti Enterprises, is India’s leading integrated telecom services provider with an aggregate of 50.94 million customers as of end of September 2007, consisting of 48.87 million mobile customers. Bharti Airtel has been rated among the best performing companies in the world in the BusinessWeek IT 100 list 2007.

    Bharti Airtel is structured into three strategic business units - Mobile services, Broadband & Telephone (B&T) services and Enterprise services. The mobile business provides mobile & fixed wireless services using GSM technology across 23 telecom circles. The B&T business provides broadband & telephone services in 94 cities. The Enterprise services provide end-to-end telecom solutions to corporate customers and national & international long distance services to carriers. All these services are provided under the Airtel brand. Airtel’s high-speed optic fibre network currently spans over 53,000 kms covering all the major cities in the country. The company has two international landing stations in Chennai that connects two submarine cable systems - i2i to Singapore and SEA-ME-WE-4 to Europe. For more information, visit www.bhartiairtel.in

    About Manchester United Soccer Schools

    MUSS offers coaching courses for footballers of all ages and ability, from eight years old through to adults.  MUSS coaching and skills development programmes are consistent with the philosophy used by the famous Manchester United Youth Academy.