A state government-backed football grassroots development programme will be launched with an exhibition match between the north-eastern players and their rest of India counterparts at the floodlit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Saturday.

A ‘pet project’ of Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, the gala event where all state government dignitaries are expected to be present, will focus on further nurturing young talent from the region which has in recent times produced a clutch of national team players.

“The Chief Minister wants to promote football in a big way across the state of Meghalaya. For this, the state government has organised a gala event tomorrow (Saturday) with professional Indian players,” the organisers said on the eve of the programme.

Among the players taking part are Michael Chopra who has 258 appearances in the English Premier League playing for nine different clubs, India wide midfielder Jackichand Singh and veterans Mehtab Hossain and Sandip Nandy.

The passes for the friendly tie will be free, organisers added, with enthusiasts being able to collect them from important vantage points in the state capital.

Moreover, each and every district within the state will see coaches helping the budding players hone their skills through the programme.