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Teams gear-up for Northwest championships
Blackburn Rovers Youth Academy will be the setting again for this year's Asian Image Football Cup.
The tournament will take place on the first bank holiday weekend of May and will feature eight clubs from across the Northwest.
Club representatives joined organisers at the official draw held at the Shahi Qila Restaurant in Blackburn.
The draw was conducted by Imran Akuji of Blackburn United and Abdul Basit of Shahjalal Unity The holders, Coppice United of Oldham will take on Bank Top Rovers whilst Preston's Canaries play Nelson's Paak United.
In a repeat of last year's first round game Fishwick Rangers will play Blackburn United.
As interest from clubs in the tournament has increased a play-off will take place between Shahjalal Unity and Lancaster Moghuls and the winner will play Rochdale's Asia.
Invited clubs will be permitted to include players of all ethnicity and backgrounds.
Asian Image Editor Shuiab Khan said, "It was encouraging to see players from all backgrounds participating last year.
"The games were very competitive but played in good spirits.
“We are delighted that Blackburn Rovers have again permitted us to use the Academy and support grassroots football in this excellent way.”
The state-of-the-art Blackburn Rovers Youth Academy was built for the cream of Rovers' youth talent over seven years ago.
It includes five full-sized pitches, indoor training facilities, a swimming pool and accommodation for 36 players A spokesman for Blackburn Rovers said, "In line with the Club's strategy to forge closer ties with our local community, Blackburn Rovers are glad to be hosting the Asian Image Cup at the Blackburn Rovers Academy.
“We would like to wish all participating teams the very best"
Iqbal Bhai, chairman of Blackburn United said, "After last year's success I am delighted we are able to host the tournament at Blackburn Rovers Youth Academy.
“We again hope to field a young side who will gain invaluable experience by playing against established clubs from across the county."
Yasser Farooq of 2008 winners Coppice United said, "We are delighted to be taking part in the again this year.
"The facilities, the organisation and competitiveness is second to non and we hope to defend the cup. It will be marvellous to win it two years running and I believe we have got a very good chance to repeat the feat in May."
Abdul Rauf of Canaries said, “We take part in a number of 11-a-side tournaments throughout the year but we found the setting for this tournament is a class apart.”
Saeed Ahmed of Asia added, "Our season isn't over yet but our lads can't wait to participate in this prestigious tournament again.
"This year there may be some changes in our team as we may be 'blooding' in the youth.
“But I'd like to think that as a group we have one of the best disciplined respectful group of lads out of all the participants and I mean no disrespect to any other team. Whatever happens, whoever gets to the final I'm sure it will be another successful tournament and everyone will enjoy themselves."