November 11, 2008

Maradona to arrive in Kolkata on December 5

Kolkata,10 Nov,2008:
Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona will lay the foundation stone of the Indian Football School (IFS) besides participating at a charity dinner during his visit to the city December 5-7.

Announcing Maradona's itinerary in the city, Lok Sabha MP Samik Lahiri said the present Argentine coach would arrive at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in the city on the night December 5.

After laying the foundation stone of the IFS in Maheshtala , about 13 km south of the city December 6, Maradona would meet the press - his first ever media interaction after becoming the Argentina coach.

The West Bengal government and the soccer fraternity would felicitate the superstar in the evening at the Salt lake Stadium, where all former soccer internationals of India would be invited. Maradona's programme for the day ends with a charity dinner, where some of his football gears would come under the hammer.

The hero of Argentina's 1986 World Cup victory is scheduled to visit Mother House, the global headquarters of Missionaries of Charity the next day, before attending a football clinic with youngsters, Lahiri told reporters on Monday. Maradona would leave for home the same night. To a query, he said Maradona could not play now, as he was a FIFA-registered coach. Lahiri also refused to disclose the remuneration Maradona has asked for his appearance.

The soccer genius is likely to be accompanied by his estranged wife Claudia, who played a big role in arranging the meeting between him and the organisers which made the visit possible. Asked what benefit would accrue to the country from the visit, Lahiri said: "The presence of the soccer master will definitely inspire and motivate the youngsters, who have grown up watching his exploits on the soccer field through video".

Lahiri said the ambitious IFS project would start by choosing 20 talented youngsters below the age of 10 from various clinics. The cadets would be coached by a former national level player, who would undergo a coaches' training in a reputed Latin American soccer academy.

After three years of training, the total number of youngsters would be pruned down to 40 (three batches combined). Once the shortlisted charges become 18, efforts would be made to place them in the leagues of various Latin American and European countries.

"Initially, we can't find slots for them in the premier divisions, but I think placing them in lower divisions should be possible," he said. He exuded confidence that if the project succeeded, the country would get 100 players with the experience of playing at the international level. West Bengal Sports Minister Subhas Chakraborty said the state government would play the role of facilitator for Maradona's visit.

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