Gangtok: 650 students from 55 schools participated in a Mission XI Million festival held at Paljor Stadium, Gangtok earlier today.

Students played small-sided games and further honed their skills at workshops that were part of the festival. Their enthusiasm was visible when they took on the field.

A Government of India and All India Football Federation project, Mission XI Million aims at making football the sport of choice in the country.

Speaking at the festival, Hon’ble Minister (I/C) of Youth Affairs and Sport, Shri Vijay Goel said, “The enthusiasm the state of Sikkim has for football was visible at the festival today. It’s a well-known fact that football is already very popular in the north-east region of the country. However, Mission XI Million is making the sport even more accessible in the region. More than 5000 schools have already embraced this programme, and our ambitious project will get reach out to at least 15000 schools before the FIFA U-17 World Cup begins later October. We’re on track”.

BK Roka, President, Sikkim Football Association; S D Dhakal, Chief Secretary, Sports and Youth Affairs, Govt of Sikkim; Mr. Khem Prasad Dahal, Chairman, Nehru Yuva Kendra; Mr. Menla Ethenpa, Gen. Secretary, Sikkim Football Association and Indian national football team player Nirmal Chhetri were all present at the event with Chettri also taking on the field to play with the children.

Speaking about the programme, Tournament Director of the Local Organising Committee, Javier Ceppi expressed his delight and stated, “Mission Eleven Million is gathering more and more momentum. It is important for us to touch every single state in the country in our endeavour to change the face of football in India. For us, doing the Festival in Gangtok is quite significant, because it is in a state where the sport is by far the most popular and where we will also hopefully be able to identify good talent that can serve India in the future”.

A legacy project of the first FIFA tournament that will be held in the country, the MXIM Festival in Sikkim is another milestone in the journey of the project. In what will be the largest school contact programme in the country, Mission XI Million will get 11 million children in touch with football before the FIFA U-17 World Cup begins in October later this year.

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