|Sanjiv Goenka and Harshavardhan Neotia.
Picture by Rashbehari Das
Calcutta: “It began over cups of tea... Sourav (Ganguly) and I had a discussion and, then, our mutual keenness was taken forward...”
That, according to Harshavardhan Neotia, chairman of the Ambuja Realty Group, is how the consortium which has bagged the city’s soccer franchise in the Indian Super League (ISL), began to take shape.
Sourav and Neotia’s first business meeting (both have known each other socially for years) took place last “August-September.”
“Actually, we met a number of times after those cups of tea. Once I realised that the venture would require a much bigger financial commitment than initially envisaged, I asked Sourav if I could sound out friends...
“Sourav agreed and I met Sanjiv (Goenka, the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group supremo) at a dinner, where a common friend, Utsav Parekh, was also present. Both were straightaway interested, which came as a boon,” Neotia told The Telegraph.
Speaking on Sunday afternoon, soon after the successful bidders were made public, Neotia added: “Later, Atletico de Madrid joined, lifting our confidence. At this stage, we only have an MoU with the club, but everything will be in place in the next few weeks...
“Atletico de Madrid have proposed that the franchise be called Atletico de Madrid Kolkata, but a call hasn’t been made. In fact, we haven’t discussed the name at all.”
Neotia’s excited on two counts: (A) It’s an opportunity to raise the level of soccer within the country; (B) It’s a chance to work with the region’s best-known sportsman — Sourav.
“Sourav would be the face of the franchise, while Atletico de Madrid’s association will bring a very different type of expertise to the table... Exciting times lie ahead,” Neotia pointed out.
Neotia is used to mega deals, but Sourav still had a word of caution for him: “The ISL would be a waiting game... One had to be patient.”
As excited is Goenka. In an SMS to this Reporter, he said: “Winning the bid is an absolute pleasure... It’s a privilege partnering Sourav.”
Over now to Atletico de Madrid.