A GROUP of football-mad youngsters from India has arrived in Bolton to take part in football training at Bolton Wanderers Football Academy — thanks to a unique partnership.

This first group has arrived following months of discussions between Subhash and Geeta Kotecha, who own Spice Valley Indian restaurants and Bolton Wanderers chairman, Phil Gartside.

The restaurateurs and the Bolton Wanderers’ chairman are looking at ways of developing a number of joint business projects which will impact favourably on Bolton.

With the first group having arrived in the town it is hoped that many more budding footballers from towns and cities across India will become regular visitors to the Wanderers’ academy.

The scheme was set up when Mr Gartside accompanied the Kotechas on a recent fact-finding trip to India.

After meeting footballers, officials and business partners they jointly agreed to start bringing groups of up to 20 young Indian footballers to train at the BWFC Football Academy.

The first group of eight young players, aged between 12 and 17 years, who arrived on Thursday, will stay at the club hotel during their 10-day visit.

The footballers will take part in structured football training sessions supervised by Wanderers’ officials as well as visiting sites of local sporting and cultural interest.

The aim of the scheme is to promote and help football grow in India by encouraging keen young players to develop their sporting and social skills through 10 day residential courses at the academy. If the Indian players show promise they can sign up for one or two year full-time certificated courses.

It is expected that during the five-year scheme, each year five separate groups of 20 young footballers aged between 12 and 17 will fly to the UK to attend the courses.

Using the couple’s extensive business links the Kotechas and Mr Gartside finalised the scheme after they met with the Indian partners — IT firms St Angelo's and OCE International.

Together they toured schools and colleges to talk about football, the courses and the Wanderers’ academy and were keen to see how the sport operates at grass roots level.

The eight-day trip took in the four Indian cities of Mumbai, Baroda, Bangalore and Chennai.

Mrs Kotecha said: “We are so pleased to see the first of what we hope will be many such groups of keen young footballers coming from India to train at the Bolton Wanderers Academy.

“We have been talking to Bolton Wanderers about links with Indian football — including taking football coaches to India to teach at all levels, for some time.

“We know that football is growing in popularity and is played in about 20,000 schools across India. We want to help the sport develop there and bring parties of players to the Academy to train.”