It was not a grand affair like the IPL. Just about 2,000 fans turned up at the Netaji Indoor Stadium as the West Bengal government felicitated ISL champions Atletico de Kolkata on Wednesday. On the occasion, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that her government will provide the land for setting up a world-class football stadium in Rajarhat.
With their overseas recruits and coach Antonio Lopez Habas already back in their respective countries and co-owner Sourav Ganguly away in Australia on a commentary assignment, only nine Atletico Kolkata players, along with assistant coach Jose Barreto and other support staff were present at the function.
State Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim, Minister for Youth Welfare and Housing Aroop Biswas, Minister for Food and Supplies Jyotipriya Mallick, Mayor of Kolkata Sovan Chatterjee and Speaker of West Bengal Legislative Assembly Biman Banerjee were also present along with a host of stars from the Bengali film industry.
Mamata, while congratulating Atletico de Kolkata for the triumph, said: “We would love to have a world-class football stadium at Rajarhat. Atletico de Kolkata, AIFF and others should join hands to make it happen. The state government will provide the land.”
“We are proud of you Atletico de Kolkata. Your win has helped us dream big. You’ve glorified the game. Now take it to the grassroots,” she added.
The chief minister also gave her approval to handing over the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for the 2017 Fifa U-17 World Cup. AIFF president Praful Patel, a special guest at the function, had put forward the proposal.
Atletico de Kolkata co-owner Sanjiv Goenka, while thanking the state government for support, said: “This is a proud moment for us. A moment that has put the city on international spotlight. Next year, we will be even better.”