MUMBAI: Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri has joined as the mentor and brand ambassador of a nation-wide talent hunt programme to pick 15 youngsters in the 8-14 age group for a comprehensive five-year residential schooling in Kolhapur, western Maharashtra.
Under the programme titled 'DreamChasers' and started by three retired army personnel, youngsters would be provided top-class coaching and technical expertise by Sporting Clube de Portugal, for whose reserve side Chhetri had played for a while in 2012-13.
The talent hunt will be held in 15 venues and 10 cities, after kicking off here in April, to cover Navi Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Kolhapur (all in Maharashtra), Baroda, Gandhinagar (Gujarat), Kerala, Delhi, Kolkatta and Guwahati, it was announced at a media conference here on Wednesday.
The selected lot would be nurtured and would undergo professional training until the age of 18 at the residential training centre of Proforce -- housed at the Dr Cyrus Poonawala International School in Kolhapur.
They would be entitled "to a 14-days sponsored training camp at SCP (Sporting Clube de Portugal). They will also be inducted into the special training programme, which is a commitment for five years," it was announced.
Besides football training, their education as well as lodging and boarding will also be looked after. The programme will include 10 months of football training in Kolhapur and one month of free training every year at SCP.
Chhetri, present at the announcement, said that he will be actively involved in the initiative.
"I am going to be part of all major decisions taken. They will be provided the best possible training. Everything will be provided for. The most important thing is coaching," said the 31-year-old national captain.
"When I went to Sporting Lisbon I was 26 and had a four year deal, I was there for seven months and I just played six games. I was improving and enjoying my time over there with the training and the kids I was playing with," said Chhetri.
"It was a great team but the guys who I played with were 17, 18 and 19 years of age and I was 26. I wish I was 16-17 then and I would have stayed for four years. Not saying that I am not enjoying now," he added.
A coach from SCP will be sent to stay with the trainees in Kolhapur with an Indian as his assistant.
"We are considered as one of the best in recruitment. Football in India has a lot of potential," said commercial head of SCP, Bruno Mascarenhas.