The project has the potential to reach tens of thousands of boys and girls who will not have experienced this level of coaching before. Nearly 4,250 miles separate - the Hawthorns and the great city of Delhi; but through the efforts of West Bromwich Albion and their partners in this enterprise – the Delhi State Government, University of Wolverhampton, Delhi Dynamos, The Albion Foundation and Youth Football International – they have made the distance disappear.
So what’s today all about? Three years ago, Albion launched the Pass It Forward project at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi and began building the Club’s profile in India driven by the desire to expand their audience beyond international boundaries and into a region which resonates so naturally and obviously with its own surrounds.
The Club have supported grassroots football in both Mumbai and Delhi and pioneered coaching support for some of the poorest youngsters in Delhi’s sprawling suburbs through a fully funded scholarship programme. After that trigger point, it seemed only natural to bond with Delhi Dynamos as the Indian Super League took grip and brought a booming football culture to the nation.
This culminated in Albion becoming the first Premier League club to loan an active first-team squad member, Adil Nabi, to the ISL via the Dynamos for their 2015 season. Now comes the next phase in these blossoming ties between Birmingham, the Black Country and the growing football fan-base in Delhi and across the ISL.
Following the Delhi State government granting permission for access, Albion and the University will be providing personnel to instil Premier League coaching values across 1200 schools in the region. This gives the project the potential to reach tens of thousands of boys and girls who will not have experienced this level of coaching before.
“In effect we are going out to ‘coach the coaches’ and spread the Pass It Forward message,” says Adrian Wright, Albion’s Sales and Marketing Director who has driven the Pass It Forward project from the outset.
“Ultimately, we want to establish a legacy that leaves a lasting impression on Delhi and India. It should be a legacy that extols the values of West Bromwich Albion and of course hopefully brings new fans to our attention.”
They are also developing their relationship with Delhi Dynamos all the time and their message is clear: “We’re here to stay and want to help football develop and through that improve the health and well-being of thousands of youngsters whose lives we can genuinely hope to change for the better.”
On the platform today, Adrian is joined by Albion’s captain and Scottish international Darren Fletcher, Professor Ian Oakes of the University of Wolverhampton, Delhi Dynamos president Prashant Argawal and Paul Schuttenbelt from Youth Football International.
The ISL is one of the newest but fastest growing football leagues in the world and was the subject of a Mutual Co-operation Agreement with the Premier League, the first of its kind for English football’s top division. Preparations for its third season are now underway but attendances are already only bettered in England, Germany and Spain.