Johannesburg, May 20 Global beverages major Coca-Cola's football talent hunt initiative will be extended to 50 Indian cities this year as against eight last year.
The joint venture with the All-India Football Federation (AIFF) was restricted to the under-16 age-group last year, but will now encompass the under-18 as well.
As part of the eight-city national initiative last year, 16 promising footballers were picked from a pool of 3,000 aspirants who were put through a massive 272-match programme.
The players from 184 schools in the eight cities went through a regimen of physical, technical, mental and skill tests as part of selection process.
A 16-member Dream Team was picked to attend a week-long camp in Rio de Janeiro along with youngsters from 20 other countries.
Deepak Jolly, Coca Cola's vice-president Public Affairs and Communications, said that all state and district football associations will also be involved in the programme this year.
"Last year we had the programme in eight cities and it was a great success. We took 16 boys to the Coca Cola Football Camp in Rio de Janerio and they did well. This time we want to do the programme in two age groups and we are in discussions with the AIFF to make it a joint initiative so that we could keep the 16 boys together for a longer period," said Jolly.
"It is very important to keep the boys together. We had a similar program here in South Africa and four players are now playing in the national team. So the idea behind the programme is to keep the guys together and prepare them to be good enough to play for India," he said.
The programme will be launched in the next couple of months.
Coca Cola has similar programmes at the grass roots level in 25 countries.