Thousands descend on Mission XI Million festival

  • 6000 children attend Mission XI Million Football Festival in Ahmedabad

  • Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia and Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan were present

  • Mission XI Million hopes to introduce football to 11 million Indian schoolchildren

A project closely associated with the forthcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 continued apace in Ahmedabad today, with 6000 children descending on The Arena by TransStadia in the city to attend a Mission XI Million Football Festival, in the presence of some Indian superstars. All India Football Federation President Praful Patel was joined by former Indian national team captain Bhaichung Bhutia and Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan for the event that captured the imagination of kids from across the region.

The project has already reached out to almost 2 million children across the nation so far, with the goal of introducing football to 11 million youngsters before India 2017 kicks off in October edging ever closer.

The 6000 kids in attendance engaged in a variety of fun activities, which included exhibition matches in front of their idols Bhutia and Roshan.

"Mission XI Million has managed to take the game out to the masses of the country," Patel said. "While it’s very heartening to see them embrace the game, it also bestows additional responsibility upon us to develop the game further. This event is a watershed moment in the history of football in this wonderful state of Gujarat, and we hope over the next few months these kids will sustain the interest and take it forward."

Decorated actor and part-owner of Indian Super League side FC Pune City Roshan was overwhelmed by the experience of seeing thousands of children enjoying the sport at the festival.

"Football and sports in general is a great medium to imbibe qualities and values in children," Roshan said. "I am thus delighted to be here for the Mission XI Million Festival. I think it’s an excellent initiative. I hope more and more children take up the game because they can really make the difference."

The Mission XI Million initiative, a Government of India and All India Football Federation joint-scheme, is a school contact program that aims at improving the football culture of India, building the football ecosystem and ultimately widening the talent pool for the various national teams. It is hoped that the program will spread to 36 cities, reaching out to more than 15,000 schools to reach the ultimate target of 11 million children.

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