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East Bengal go to grassroots

Calcutta: East Bengal, in association with Tea Board of India, has launched an unique development programme aimed at exploring and developing young footballers in tea gardens.

The move is aimed at tapping and promoting talent ahead of the Under-17 World Cup in India in 2017.

The club will be providing the technical support and have identified three areas for this project — Tejpur in Assam, Jalpaiguri in North Bengal and Kannur in South India.

The formal inauguration of the Tejpur camp will be on Saturday.

Footballers will be recruited from four zones in each of the areas. While 120 youngsters will be recruited initially, it will pruned to 64 after preliminary training and finally to 16.

The age limit has been kept to 16 this year, but from next year talented boys around 13 will be targeted.

Each of the 16 boys in each camp will be given a stipend of Rs 30,000.

“This is a great opportunity for tea garden workers… We want to see a few of them in the Under-17 Cup team,” said a Tea Board official.

A national level tournament among the zonal teams will be held in the city after successful development of the teams from the three zones.

All the 48 players participating in the national meet would be given the annual scholarship.