Indian men's football team captain Sunil Chhetri has lauded the joint efforts of Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) and the Premier League in providing a platform for emerging footballers to take their game to a higher level in the Next Gen Cup 2022.
The talismanic striker feels the tournament in the United Kingdom offers an opportunity that he didn't receive in his formative years.
Chhetri, the third-highest active international goalscorer in the world, said:
"This is an opportunity I didn't have as a young footballer in India, and I'm really happy that the Premier League and the Indian Super League (ISL) have joined hands to make this happen.”
The upcoming edition of the Next Gen Cup, slated to begin on July 26, will be hosted by the Premier League and is part of their partnership with FSDL. Both parties have been working closely together for the holistic development of Indian football.
Chhetri added in this regard:
"The Next Gen Cup presents a chance for our players to go out and get the experience of playing against the youth teams of some of the best sides in the UK. I'm really glad to see our youngsters get this chance, and it will also help our coaches see the boys who've been knocking on the first team doors."
Chhetri also urged the emerging Indian talent to draw inspiration from his Bengaluru FC (BFC) teammate Naorem Roshan Singh, who has broken the glass ceiling and made his mark with the national team. He remarked:
"To give them a message becomes easy when examples like Roshan Singh are in front of you. Think of where he was a year back and look now - the journey from the club's academy to the first team and then the Indian team. That's what you can do when you work hard."
The Under-21 teams of Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters FC (KBFC) will represent India on the global stage against top Premier League academy teams by virtue of occupying the top two spots in the second edition of the Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) earlier this year.
FSDL and the Premier League, in their eight-year-long partnership, have collaborated to promote football in India with a focus on various aspects such as coaching and refereeing along with youth development.