“It’s the beginning of something special,” said Sourav Ganguly as the
Kolkata franchise of the upcoming Indian Super League (ISL) football was officially launched here on Wednesday. The team will be called Atletico de Kolkata, confirming Atletico Madrid’s strong presence as a stakeholder.
But why has Atletico, who will play the Champions League final against Real Madrid in Lisbon on May 24, decided to venture into Indian football?
“India is a huge market. So when we were approached, we thought why not,” said the club owner Miguel Angel Gil Marin.
Atletico’s director of corporate development Ignacio Aguillo elaborated. “India has a massive population. If we combine that with the passion for the game (here) and discipline, we are bound to have results. There’s no reason why India can’t live up to its potential if you put your mind to it. At the end of the day it’s a numbers game.”
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Atletico will work at the grassroots and is likely to set up an academy in Kolkata. The officials have checked the facilities and infrastructure available during their two-day reconnaissance here.
“Through our academy we will try to develop young players. We will help this franchise build a good team, a competitive team. My dream is to see an Indian footballer playing for Atletico Madrid, and I believe this is a dream for many Indians as well,” said Miguel.
He and his team of delegates gave an impression that they were pretty keen to contribute to Indian football, rising above the simple business of checks and balances.
“Atletico de Kolkata is not an extension of Atletico Madrid. It’s an integral of our club. We are not a club that has a lot of means like Real Madrid or Barcelona. But we take care of our people. We want to replicate that philosophy here as well. If one day we can contribute to bringing Indian football to where it belongs, we would be very proud,” Javier Martinez, Atletico’s director of business development, asserted.
Ganguly, along with his partners Sanjiv Goenka, Harshvardhan Neotia and Utsav Parekh, carried on about the importance of the presence of Atletico in Kolkata.
“This is a terrific journey for the game of football in Kolkata. It will give a huge push to the game in this part of the world. It will revolutionise football here. We always had the passion but didn’t have the talent. Hope this association with Atletico will help us unearth quality talent,” said the former India cricket captain, who is a co-owner of the Kolkata franchise.
Team Atletico had “some presents” for their Kolkata counterparts — a La Liga official match ball signed by Diego Simeone and Diego Costa and a set of Atletico Madrid team shirts.
But some issues still remain unclear. When will the players auction be held? How will the teams sign up their players? How many foreign players will be allowed per team? What about the composition of the coaching staff and team trials? Even the team owners don’t seem to have a clue yet.