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Coke to sponsor teenager Uttam Rai's US training stint at Colorado Rush

832   //    06 Nov 2012, 09:36 IST

India Under-16 junior international Uttam Rai‘s talent was first spotted at the ‘Coca-Cola’ Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy (India’s Under-16 Nationals) in 2009 before being picked for the Indian Under-14 national team. Uttam Rai, who hails from Sikkim is one of India’s bightest young football talents. Uttam has been selected for training with the prestigious United States Soccer Development Academy, Colorado Rush. Coca-Cola India is now facilitating his training stint at the Academy, collaborating with his management at Libero Sports. This placement will offer him an opportunity to train with some of the top youth players and coaches in the US and compete in the United States’ premier youth development league.

Coca-Cola India celebrated Uttam’s selection to the Academy by organizing a send-off for the footballer at its headquarters in Gurgaon. Present at the send-off event were Atul Singh, President & CEO of Coca-Cola India and South West Asia, Tim Schulz, CEO at Rush Soccer and Sukhvinder Singh, Managing Director at Libero Sports.

Speaking at the event, Atul Singh said, “At Coca-Cola India, it has been our endeavour to promote grass roots level sports by associating with tournaments at the school level. It is a proud moment for us that our very own talent from the Coca-Cola Mir Iqbal Hussain Under-16 tournament – Uttam Rai – will now be training at the Colorado Rush Soccer Development Academy. This recognition for talent at the grass roots level is very encouraging as India prepares to take the leap to the next level with the sport. We hope that there will be more recognition and many more opportunities from international clubs and associations for the talent in this country. We are certain that with his immense talent and potential and passion for the game, Uttam will earn recognition on the international stage.”

Hailed as the next Baichung Bhutia of Indian football, now 16-year old Uttam Rai has a list of accomplishments to his name. Uttam was first spotted at the age of 13 at the 32nd Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy in the year 2009, which was a significant stepping stone in his career. Thereafter he went on to represent India at the Under-14, U-15 and U-16 levels.

Tim Schulz, President & CEO at Rush Soccer, said, “We are looking forward to Uttam Rai’s visit to the United States. India is an emerging country in the world of football, and we are honoured to be a part of her growth. The partnership with Libero Sports and Rush has been in place for some time but to hear that Coca-Cola will be involved is huge. Coca-Cola is a big player and they can get things done.”

While Uttam’s stint at the Academy, lasting 6 months, would be extremely technical in nature, a broad overview of his trip would include

- Integration of Uttam in the Rush Academy set-up and acclimatization.
- Familiarize him with the culture and customs at the Academy, its players and technical staff.
- Expose him to professional scouts with the possibility of playing professional football.

According to Sukhvinder Singh, Managing Director at Libero Sports, “It is heartening to see Coca-Cola India continuing its support to young footballers from across the country. We are also pleased for Uttam, who will now be able to train with international coaches and many other talented footballers at the Academy. This is a great example of the results that could be achieved by sustained and synchronized efforts of key stakeholders working towards a common objective.”

The ‘Coca-Cola’ Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy has acted as a robust platform for young football talent of the country to come forth and showcase their best. With participation from over 2,500 schools, across 75 cities in 27 states, the tournament has proved to be a raging success with youngsters across the country with a hope that it will grow even further in the years to come.

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I've been reporting about football since 1998 - as founder of IndianFootball.Com, for other publications &amp; have also worked for radio &amp; television. You can follow me on my "Arunava About Football" blog <a href="">ArunFoot</a> &amp; on <a href="">Twitter</a>
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