Nike has been running the Manchester United Premier Cup (MUPC), its grassroot initiative for football in India for the last nine years.
The tournament sees several top U-15 sides compete to be crowned as the MUPC India champions who then book a berth in the Asian finals whose winner makes it to the world final at Old Trafford.
Avinash Pant, the marketing director of Nike India, stated that it is imperative for kids to have a platform to showcase their talent.
“For us, providing a platform for young talent is really important to develop the sport (football) in the country. There's no question about that. This is the ninth year that we are running this tournament. So we are committed towards it and we are thankful to the AIFF (All India Football Federation) - that together with them, we are able to build this into a truly authentic platform for U-15 talent. So it helps the kids to build on that platform and to build their stature,” he told Goal.
BMSC.T Manipur won the India leg of the competition last year and reached the semi-finals in the Asian final only to go out on penalties. Pant highlights the progress made by the Indian youngsters as they are able to compete with much higher ranked sides.
“I mean, the Manipur team went up to the semis last year. So it's not like they are going out there and 'oh, they just got a chance to go there.' They are going there to do something. Once again, this year they are the champions. It is absolutely satisfying to see a whole team develop through this tournament,” he mentioned.
Along with the AIF, Nike have had a focused approach in the last two-to-three seasons where only the best teams could participate in the competition. Pant hopes that the tournament goes a long way in helping identify top talent.
“This is what we have worked on, along with the AIFF, which is to ensure that that the absolute best talent - whether you look at it from the AIFF academies, state bodies, state teams and then you look at the I-League teams which have a strong infrastructure, training grounds - are getting in and we give them the exposure.
“I think the more we are able to build this tournament into like the top-top 15 tournaments in the country, it absolutely will help us identify the bright young talent for the future,” he signed off.
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