After the immense success of the Indian Premier League (cricket) and relative success of similar Hockey, Badminton and American Football leagues in the country, the beautiful game is the latest to adopt the franchise system made famous in the United States of America.
A brand new football league, the Indian Super League, will kick-off later this year, while the regular I-League takes place as well. On Sunday, the 13th of April, franchises were opened for bidding and eight such franchises were bought by star-studded individuals and football clubs.
Among the bidders, the most high-profile one from a European football perspective, was the current La Liga leaders and Champions League semi-finalists. Atletico Madrid are part of a consortium that has successfully bid for the Kolkata franchise. This is the Spanish sides method of obtaining a global presence, at a time where two of their Spanish compatriots dominate popularity across the World from the La Liga. Kolkata is obviously known as the football hub of the country, thus bidding for the franchise established in that city is an extremely smart move.
The Spanish side issued a statement on their official website, announcing the new bid win. It has also been mentioned that the club will be called Atletico de Madrid Kolkata and will wear the famous red-white-blue colours of the side.
Here’s an extract of the statement released by Atletico Madrid, alongwith the thoughts of their CEO Miguel Angel Gil
“I am very excited to have won the Kolkata Franchise of the ISL and being the First International Team to be directly owning a Club in India we along with our Indian Partners and IMG-Reliance aim to revolutionise football in the country“, said Miguel Ángel Gil, CEO of Atletico Madrid.
The social significance, international media impact, and the values that football represents are strategic tools to engage individuals on emotional bases and bring cultures together.
India also has traditional and cultural tie to the sport of football. The Indian diaspora continue to engage actively in all major European football leagues including the Spanish league. So Atlético de Madrid believes that establishment of the new franchise in India will help develop a stronger link with 1.2 billion Indiansto create a strong foundationand passion for the sport.
A country that needs and wants to enhance its level of football and its aspiring footballers face a bright future.
Atletico Madrid aren’t sole owners of the franchise. Ex-Indian cricket team captain, Sourav Ganguly, who is from Kolkata and has a cult status there is part of the consortium, further enhancing the club’s popularity. Harshavardhan Neotia, Sanjiv Goenka & Utsav Parekh who are all prominent Indian businessman are also part of the consortium.
Atletico Madrid aren’t the only club to have bought a franchise in Sunday’s bidding. Dempo Sports Club, which is one of the most successful Indian clubs in recent history, is part of a consortium including American conglomerate Videocon and Indian businessman, Dattaraj Salgaocar, that has purchased a franchise based in the coastal state of Goa.
Another club, Shillong Lajong (which is the most popular club in the North East of India, another popular football hub), has also bought a franchise based in Guwahati, along with popular Bollywood actor and football fan, John Abraham.
Legendary Indian cricketer, Sachin Tendulkar and PVP Ventures (media & entertainment) have purchased an Indian Super League franchise based in Kochi. Indian Bollywood actor, Salman Khan and the Rajesh Wadhawan group have purchased the franchise to be based in Pune while 31-yr-old Ranbir Kapoor will become the youngest franchise owner. The actor purchased the franchise to be based in Mumbai, the birth-place of Indian cinema, along with chartered accountant Bimal Parekh.
The franchise based in capital city of New Delhi was bid for by DEN Networks Limited, while the franchise in the Silicon Valley of the country, Bangalore, was purchased by the Sun Media Group. Bangalore ofcourse also has the newest I-League football club, Bengaluru FC, that lead the domestic league with 2 games to go in their debut season.
The likes of Thierry Henry, Michael Owen, Freddie Ljunberg etc have been named as potential players, while Kenny Dalglish, Ruud Gullity & Marcel Desailly have been rumoured as possible managers for the Indian Super League over the last few months.
It remains to be seen after a lot of trouble, whether the league actually kicks off. There has been a lot of talk about how this league actually is detrimental for Indian football. But unless we know what plans it has for grassroots football, infrastructure etc, we can’t say for sure. One thing is certain though, it is attracting a lot of attention, is bound to be popular, has the support of well established sponsors and with the likes of Atletico Madrid being a part of it, it can only be positive.