| David Booth |
Mumbai: Indian football was dealt a blow on Friday with the Mahindra Group announcing the disbanding of its professional football team at the end of this season.
We have decided to get out of competitive football and get into soccer at the school level. From the end of the I-League (2009-10 season), we will not take part in any competitive soccer, Alan Durante, Chairman of the Mahindra Football Club, said.
Ruzbeh Irani, Executive Vice-President, Corporate Strategy of Mahindra and Mahindra, said that the decision reflected the companys shift in focus.
It was in line with our Groups philosophy and shift in soccer, from taking part in professional sport to developing it. We feel we can make much difference to sport in India at the school level in soccer and grassroot level in basketball instead of running a professional team, Irani said.
It may be recalled that Mahindra had recently announced a tie-up with the National Basketball Association (NBA) of the USA to create the Mahindra NBA Challenge..
Mahindra United have been a very successful team, having won all the major titles including the National League, Durand Cup, IFA Shield, Federation Cup, Presidents Cup and the Super Cup. The team have been adjudged champions of the local league 15 times since 1971. The team were the frontrunners to win the I-League this season a fortnight ago before two successive away defeats put paid to their hopes. Right now they are in the second position behind Dempo with 38 points from 23 points.
The news came as a shock to the players who were informed of the companys decision at the same time as the media, Friday afternoon, at their training facility.
There had been no inkling of the managements decision although the contracts of the players and the support staff — which except that of Paresh Shivalkars come to an end this season — had not been renewed.
I am shocked. Its too early to comment. All that I can say now is that I am out of the job next month end, coach David Booth told The Telegraph.
I am not worried about Indian football or Mumbai football at the moment. My concern is the players, he said.
Henry Menezes, the team manager, was a bit sober. Its a shock to me as well but we have to move on. Every player will get a contract (from other teams) based on their potential. That should not be a worry, he said.
But Souter Vaz, general secretary of the Mumbai District Football League (MDFL), whose title sponsors are ironically Mahindra, said the teams closing will not have a serious impact in the long term.