Italian football club AC Milan to launch three academies in Kerala

AC Milan, a joint second-most successful club in Serie-A with 18 league titles along with Inter Milan, has 19 international academies in countries like Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Morocco, Vietnam, Switzerland and Sweden. (Twitter/ACMilan)

Kerala's football fans and aspiring players have plenty to rejoice as Italian football giant AC Milan picked three cities in the state as locations for its world-class academies. These incidentally would also be the first three international academies of the club in the country.

In a statement, the football club said it plans to set up academies in Kozhikode, Malappuram and Ernakulam as part of a three-year agreement in collaboration with Calicut Sports City LLP. In the following years, more academies would be launched in Thrissur, Kasaragod and Kannur.

Although no time-frame has been announced on when these academies will come up, the club said the activities will kick off in April when Claudio Zola, the official coach of the club, comes to India. Among his responsibilities are supporting the training of local coaches, supervising daily training sessions and analysing the technical development of the academies in line with global standards.

In the first year itself, more than 600 children between the ages of 5 and 18 would be able to participate in the academies' activities.

"India is a highly strategic territory and we are proud to launch a project that, from the state of Kerala, will allow us to bring thousands of children into football with passion and competence thus promoting all those sporting values that have always been the basis of our Club's initiatives. Our mission is to share AC Milan's technical and organisational know-how, focusing on the training of local coaches and managers so they can involve boys, girls and their families on a daily basis," said Alessandro Gianni, AC Milan International Academies Manager, said in a statement.

AC Milan, a joint second-most successful club in Serie-A with 18 league titles along with Inter Milan, has 19 international academies in countries like Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Morocco, Vietnam, Switzerland and Sweden.

It's no surprise that Kerala has been picked for the launch of the Italian club's international academies. The state has routinely demonstrated, often wildly, its love for the sport and such expressions of fandom are visible during World Cups. Also, the state's Malabar belt, especially Kozhikode, Malappuram and Kannur districts, host feverish football competitions through the year and a popular version called 'sevens football' for which professional players are often brought in from other countries. The state has representation in the Indian Super League (ISL) through the Kerala Blasters who were the runners-up in 2014 and 2016 editions.