The 2022 Next Generation Cup features Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters FC along with five Premier League academy teams and one team from South Africa. “The Next Gen cup presents a chance for our players to go out and get the experience of playing against the youth teams of some of the best sides in the UK. I’m really glad to see our youngsters get this chance, and it also gives our coaches to see the boys who have been knocking on the first team doors in action. This is an opportunity that I didn’t have as a young footballer in India, and I’m really happy that the Premier League and ISL have joined hands to make this happen,” Sunil Chhetri, India captain, said.
Bengaluru won the inaugural Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) – which was the qualification platform for the international tournament, earlier this year.
“When we went for the RFDL, I told the boys to go there and enjoy the football. It was not that we were going on a vacation, we had a purpose. That really worked for us. And that’s the reason we are here now. I would like to thank FSDL and even the Premier League for giving us this great opportunity. It’s a very big platform for these boys to come and perform here,” Moosa added.
Apart from the tournament, the Premier League and FSDL works together in a host of knowledge sharing activities for the holistic development of Indian football. Moosa remarked that the partnership is helping young Indians to take up football and aspire to potentially one day play in the Next Generation Cup.
“Now, my son is in the Bengaluru U12s team. When I showed him that we came here and went to Wembley, he was so excited. He was saying that I also want to be here. So this is something for the youngsters to look upon and work harder to be here. And it’s not only for Bengaluru but most of the clubs in the country, it will really help them to perform and get better. I am sure that the level of football will go higher,” he said.
Bengaluru had to come from a goal down to beat AFC Wimbledon in a match that Moosa terms as ‘not easy’. “It was the first match for me and the boys against a foreign team. It was only in the second half I could read the opponent, how they play and what their formation is. So during halftime, we gave them instructions in the dressing room on how to go about in the second half. We were successful in that,” Moosa revealed.
Now, Bengaluru face former Premier League champions Leicester City FC’s academy team on Wednesday.
Captain Namgyal Bhutia, on the back of the friendly win, expressed his desire to give their best shot. “It feels amazing to win against Wimbledon. It was a very good game for us. Both the teams created so many chances. We gave our best and scored the goals. I think it’s a good opportunity to play against Leicester City because we can get so much confidence after playing them. We learn from them also, and we try to give our best,” concluded Bhutia, who has already made seven appearances in the Indian Super League.
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