After years of speculation about the revival of the historic Rovers Cup, there is hope for football enthusiasts. The Western India Football Association (WIFA) plans to conduct the tournament next year. It’s been a long 12-year wait.
Not just that, the total prize money of the tournament would be Rs1 crore and it would be held on the artificial turf of the refurbished Cooperage Ground on July 27, 2013. The tournament is likely to be a 12-team affair, with three to four foreign teams expected to participate.
“Every member of the WIFA wanted the Rovers Cup back. The All India Football Federation has given us the permission and we are all very emotionally happy that it will be back,” said Dr Vishwajeet Kadam, vice-president of WIFA.
The decision was made on Wednesday on the sidelines of the WIFA signing a Rs100-crore deal with Sporting Ace Pvt. Ltd, a Mumbai-based sports management company, for a period of 10 years to promote the game at the district level.
The funds will be pumped in at the grassroots level in order to increase the bank of young football players and certified coaches. The aim is to make Maharashtra the leading football state in India.
WIFA will also fund the players’ equipment and camps and provide pension to former Olympiad, Asiad, state and international football players.
The various initiatives under the new partnership will include an across-the-state talent hunt called ‘The Mahayudh’. It will be launched with the help of various district football associations and will target over 5,000 teams and around 50,000 players. It will be held between December 2012 and February 2013 across the 30 WIFA-affiliated districts.
The Mahayudh will be conducted at three levels: district, regional and state. Players from these levels will be identified for the I League and Maha League Club. There will be no limit to the number of school teams that can participate in the tournament.
Even players, not part of school teams, can form a team. “When we went to 21 districts and spoke to various players, parents and coaches, they all asked one question, ‘where is the ladder?’” said Henry Menezes, CEO of WIFA and a former national player. “Our aim is to provide basic infrastructure facilities, expertise, equal and transparent platform for players to perform and channel their passion.”