Nike introduces India to Man United Premier Cup

Indian teenagers will now get a taste of international football through the Manchester United Premier Cup, launched in Kolkata today in the presence of star striker Baichung Bhutia and Subrata Dutta, secretary of the Indian Football Association. Bhutia, the Indian national team's captain, is the new brand ambassador of Nike, a five year contract appointment.

Nike said its partnership with the All India Football Federation to bring the MU Premier Cup to India every year aimed to popularise the sport at the grass-roots level and encourage young talents by giving them an opportunity to participate in a global tournament. "The effort bears testimony to our commitment to elevating the game in the country," said Sanjay Gangopadhyay, marketing director of Nike India, as quoted by Indo Asian News Service.

Founded as the NIKE International Premier Cup in 1994 and co-sponsored since 2003 by the Manchester United Football Club, the MUCP has become the largest international youth football tournament in the world, involving over 6,000 U14 boys teams from over 40 countries. In India, eight teams — Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Mohammedan Sporting, Mahindra United, Tollygunj Agragami, JCT Mills, Vasco Sports Club and Ever Ready Association - will take part in the first edition with finals held from 22-26 March.

The winners of India will fly to Bangkok, where they will play in South East Asian regional finals against the champion teams from Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore, in May. The champions will progress to the world finals to be played in Europe later this year.