What’s the story?
The Indian Football Association (IFA) has invited the English club to the tournament and reportedly, Liverpool have given preliminary consent. Speaking to Bengali daily Aanadabazar Patrika, IFA secretary Utpal Ganguly said, “We wanted to organise the tournament in mid-April. Gerrard was almost convinced to come to India with the youth team. However, a few problems have crept up regarding the timetable of the tournament.
“In mid-April, the association is keen to organise the U-21 tournament. Consequently, the Shield has been pushed back to May. We are still trying to get Liverpool to play in the new schedule.”
In case you didn’t know…
The IFA Shield was first organised by the IFA, the state football association of West Bengal, in 1893. It is not only one of the oldest football tournaments in India, but also the fourth oldest in the world.
Since 2015, though, keeping in mind the hectic schedules of the senior players, the Shield was turned into an under-19 youth football tournament.
The heart of the matter
The tournament which primarily aims at youth development in Indian football is hosted every year after the I-League. This year, as well, it was supposed to be organised in mid-April but the dates have been pushed back. The association had sent invitations to some of the top clubs in the world to send in their youth teams, like every year.
Reports suggest that Liverpool had given an initial consent to send their youth team. The youth team is coached by former star Steven Gerrard. The former England international joined Liverpool’s academy staff towards the end of January and took up a varied role at Kirkby, working with groups from the U6s to the U23s.
Parallels from history
Over the years, several foreign teams have taken part, with the likes of Bayern Munich, Shakhtar Donetsk and Palmeiras’ reserve teams playing in the tournament. A Bayern Munich reserve side managed by German legend, Gerd Müller, took part in 2005 and won the tournament, while Burmese club Finance and Revenue F.C. won the Shield in 2004.
The youngsters of the clubs taking part in the IFA Shield will benefit immensely by playing against world-class youth teams like Liverpool’s. If a few of these players put in quality performances, they may even catch the eye of Liverpool coaches and may even get an opportunity to play for them sometime in the future.
The football-crazy city of Kolkata has already witnessed legends like Pele, Oliver Kahn, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi in action, and now, Gerrard is set to be added to that list .