Photos: Ganguly's ISL franchise named Atletico de Kolkata
Taking a cue from their Spanish co-owners and UEFA Champions League finalists Atletico de Madrid, the Kolkata franchise in the much-anticipated Indian Super League was named Atletico de Kolkata on Wednesday.
Miguel Angel Gil Marin, owner and CEO of the Spanish club, and Kolkata-based co-owners -- former India captain Sourav Ganguly, industrialists Harsh Neotia, Sanjiv Goenka and Utsav Parekh -- unveiled the team, but said they are yet to finalise the jersey, as it has to get approval from the ISL.
There's also a proposal to get the Atletico Madrid squad to play a friendly match in Kolkata once the city team is formed.
"We are also looking for a pre-season training in Madrid for the Kolkata franchise," Neotia said.
Also unveiling the name of the consortium as the Kolkata Games and Sports Private Limited, the five partners pledged to take Indian football to the next level.
"Atletico breathes football, lives around football. It's a great idea to expand our brand and reach a new market. India and China are huge markets. Atletico also collaborates in different countries through Alteitco de Madrid foundation. We will try to support many kids who want to develop football.
"We are trying two different ways, one through academy and another side through the franchise and play professional football," Miguel said, handing over an official La Liga football with autographs of the team members.
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Image: Co-owners of Atletico de Kolkata, (from left to right) Sourav Ganguly, Utsav Parekh, Miguel Angel Gil Marin (owner of Atletico de Madrid), Harshavardhan Neotia and Sanjiv Goenka, Ignacio Aguillo, (Director, Corporate Development, Atletico de Madrid), Emillo Gutierrez (Director, Marketing and International Relations, Atletico de Madrid), during the launch of the in the Indian Super League franchise in Kolkata on Wednesday.
Photographs: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI
Photos: Kolkata's ISL franchise named Atletico de Kolkata
The Atletico officials also handed each of the four city owners their official Atletico Madrid jerseys with their respective names, but a common number of 19 -- which belongs to their most popular player and captain Diego Costa.
"It will be a proud moment for us if we can take Indian football to where it belongs. It will be a great moment for us if one day a Kolkata footballer is able to represent Atletico Madrid. We are planning to build an academy here and give them a window of an opportunity," Ignacio Aguillo, director of corporate development at Atletico, said.
Ganguly said, "Our club will try and bring together the best talent to form a team with the driving thought of 'playing to win'. Kolkata has been central to football in our country and our objective is to ensure that we re-gain the position.
"This time round, the difference will be to give football audiences a level of play which is par international and creates a pride and passion similar to what we see for global leagues and tournaments." Asked why they chose to invest in a country whose ranking hovers around 150 and FIFA had termed them a 'sleeping giant', Aguillo said: "You have a massive population and if you combine that with passion and discipline, you are bound to have results. We have seen that in many countries."
Giving example of world champions Spain, he said: "They don't have population but they have achieved with the right infrastructure and discipline. There is no reason why India can't live up to its true potential. It's numbers game at the end of the day."
Terming this a new beginning, former India captain Ganguly said: "We all grew up kicking a football. I'm sure it's same with a lot of kids in the state. It's a beginning of something different, give a push to the city. This will revolutionise football in this part of the world.
"We always had the passion but did not have the talent to match the passion for the game. I thank Atletico Madrid to be a part of us. We hope they liked the city at first sight."
Image: Miguel Angel Gil Marin, owner Atletico de Madrid, and Sourav Ganguly, former India cricket captain and co-owner of Indian Super League franchise Atletico de Kolkata, share a light moment during the launch.
Photographs: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI