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Neotia: Will need state’s support

- Hope to nurture the game: Sourav

Calcutta: The consortium that have bagged the rights to own the Calcutta franchise of the Indian Super League are proud and excited to be able to bring the city on the map of the IMG-Reliance Star India venture.

Sourav Ganguly, Harshavardhan Neotia, Sanjiv Goenka and Utsav Parekh are looking ahead to the “support and blessings” of the state government to make it a success.

“We want to win the League this year itself,” said Neotia, chairman of the Ambuja Realty Group.

“We will of course discuss our plans with the state government. We will need the support of the state as they will have a say in the infrastructure development and the venues.”

Sourav iterated that the support from the state would be necessary. “We have to know which of the grounds will be available. We will need support from the state. We hope to be able to use the Salt Lake Stadium as a venue, though nothing has been finalised as yet.

“We just got the team on Sunday. It is way too early to say anything. Give us time, only then things will fall into place.”

The name of the team and team colours are yet to be decided. And the co-owners still don’t have any idea about the players who will be available for them.

With Atletico de Madrid as part of the consortium, the Calcutta team will obviously have an edge. “They are the best team in Europe. Indian football will benefit from the fact that they have shown interest. However, we still have to find a balance between the worth of a player and how much we can spend on him. We can only have one marquee player and about 8-10 foreign players in the squad.

“We will also try to bring in local talents as end of the day, people will come to watch the game. If the standard of football is not good then there will be no interest,” he said.

Asked about their plans of infrastructure development — which was one of the criteria for the bid — Neotia said: “IMG-Reliance, organisers of the league, will give us the guidelines and we will have to implement it here. But it is too early to say anything definite.”

Sourav added: “Infrastructure, of course is important. At the end of the day, you need a good ground, a net, a ball and a set of good players who are willing to play. That’s what creates good footballers. It is true for all sport.

“When Sachin (Tendulkar) or I started playing, we used to play on matting wickets. The infrastructure in cricket you see today was not available. But we were among the best. When Pele or Maradona started to play, they didn’t have fancy infrastructure. So first, we need to get quality players and then we can plan everything. We hope to nurture the game.”

He, however, warned that people should not compare the ISL with the success of IPL right now. “Don’t compare it with IPL ... I’m being honest. But as we say, it’s the start of something... Hopefully, somewhere down the line, things will improve.

“We pray that all the money that we put in gets recovered. But it’s not going to be easy.”

But Neotia, Goenka and Parekh maintained that this was less of a business venture for them and more of an emotional commitment.

“It’s a proud moment. An emotional moment for us,” said Goenka, the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group supremo. “We were born and brought up in this city. We owe everything to Calcutta. It’s time to pay back. We need to give the citizens something to be proud of.”

Representatives of Atletico de Madrid will be in the city in the next few weeks to thrash out details. While the website of the iconic club has already put up a name for the team, Sourav said: “Nothing has been finalised, but we are happy that they are showing so much interest.”