Children from schools across the metropolis had a chance to play and display their skills in front of World Cup winner Carles Puyol at the ‘Mission XI Million’ festival at the Mumbai Football Arena on Wednesday (17).
More than 500 children from various academies and schools played exhibition games with Puyol and demonstrated the skills they had gained through the initiative in front of the former Barcelona and Spain defender.
Puyol said that for the country to dream big in the world’s most popular game, children need to start playing at a young age with backing from parents and schools.
“For India to become a footballing nation, kids need to start playing and parents, schools and other institutions have to promote the sport. Children have to practice, and they have to have fun while playing,” he said.
“Mission XI Million is doing exactly that and I think it is a great step to make football in the country more popular,” he said.
Javier Ceppi, tournament director for the Local Organising Committee of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India, said Puyol was pleased to see the passion for the game in young children.
“It was very important for us to have a legend such as Puyol see on the ground how Mission XI Million is changing the landscape of Indian football. He was extremely happy to see the passion that kids have for the game here,” said Ceppi.
Tipped to be the largest school contact programme in the country, ‘Mission XI Million’ aims to reach out to 11 million children before the U-17 World Cup begins on October 6.