English Premier League makes India debut

05 October 2011 07:35

Blackburn Rovers will hope for some respite from their domestic woes when they become the first English Premier League side to play in India this week.

Rovers, owned by Indian poultry firm Venky's, will take on local side Pune FC in an exhibition match in the western city of Pune on Friday and lead a series of coaching sessions with local youngsters.

The match at the Balewadi Sports Complex was originally scheduled to be played in July, but was postponed following a bomb blast in Mumbai, 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Pune.

Rovers, who narrowly avoided relegation last year, are currently languishing second-last in the Premiership after losing five of their opening seven matches.

The 4-0 defeat at home to Manchester City on Saturday prompted angry Rovers fans to demand the dismissal of manager Steve Kean, who replaced Sam Allardyce soon after Venky's bought the club last year.

Rovers will be without at least nine regulars for the India trip, including Martin Olsson and Radosav Petrovic, who are on international duties this week for the Euro 2012 qualifiers and under-21 friendlies.

But Pune FC coach Derrick Perreira said the game against an top flight English team would be a good lesson for his young side, which finished third in India's I-League in their debut season in 2009.

"There is no doubt Rovers will be technically much superior, it will be a great experience playing them," said Perreira. "I am sure my boys will gain a lot from the match."

The three-day India trip, which starts on Wednesday, comes as the Rovers management seek a way to turn around the team's fortunes after a dismal start to the season.

Club owner Venkatesh Rao has already said a key meeting was planned with Kean and others to address the club's problems.

"I have spoken with Steve and we are working on our weak points," Rao was quoted as saying by Sky Sports News. "We are going to sit this weekend and we are going to have a very big discussion over this."

European football, especially the English Premier League, enjoys a growing following in India, which is regarded as a massive potential market for the sport.

The eastern city of Kolkata recently hosted a FIFA-sanctioned friendly between Lionel Messi-led Argentina and Venezuela, while Liverpool and Rovers are setting up youth academies in India.

Source: AFP