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 in Mumbai Football Arena in Andheri today.
More than 500 children from various academies and schools got a chance to play exhibition games with Puyol and demonstrate the skills they had gained through the initiative in front of the former Barcelona and Spain defender.
At the festival, Puyol said that for the country to dream big in the world's most popular game, the children need to start playing at a young age with the 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.
Tournament Director for the Local Organising Committee of the upcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, Javier Ceppi said Puyol was pleased to see the passion for the game in young children.
"It was very important for us to have a FIFA Legend such as Carles Puyol seen 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 and to realise that football is indeed taking over the country," 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 FIFA U-17 World Cup begins on October 6.
Minister of State (IC) for Youth Affairs and Sports Vijay Goel, Shiv Sena chairperson Aditya Thackeray and Adidas Technical Director and two-time FIFA World Cupper with Nigeria, Rubio Afolabi, were also present on the occasion.