English Premier League outfit Crystal Palace will be sending their Under-19 team to play in the prestigious India Football Association (IFA) Shield, beginning on February 16, the organisers confirmed on Tuesday.

The IFA Shield is the fourth oldest club competition in the world, which was first held in 1893.

It was made a U-19 tournament last year under pressure from a packed calendar schedule with an aim to promote football at the grassroots level.

The tournament will be played between 10 teams.

“Crystal Palace have confirmed that they will be sending their U-19 team for the tournament. We are also looking at teams from Kerala and Goa. Besides them, we will have East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Mohammedan Sporting, United Sports Club and a U-19 team of the All India Football Federation (AIFF),” IFA secretary Utpal Ganguly told reporters here. 

“We have seven confirmed teams so far,” he said at the launch ceremony where electronic giants LG were roped in as the tournament’s title sponsors.

The winner will pocket a prize money of Rs.5 lakh while the runner-up will take home a purse of Rs.3 lakh.

The tournament has a history of hosting heavyweight football clubs with Brazilian giants Palmeiras and German champions Bayern Munich’s reserve team having featured here.

“I am honoured to have won this trophy with East Bengal. It makes me happy now that the IFA are doing this with the U-19s and focussing on grassroots. That is where our aim should be,” former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia said at the press conference.

Also, present at the launch event were former footballer Dibyendu Biswas, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) vice-president Subrata Dutta and Bengali film actress Mimi Chakraborty.

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