| Harshavardhan Neotia (from left), Utsav Parekh and Sourav Ganguly during a meeting with the Atletico Madrid delegates, on Tuesday. A Telegraph picture.
Calcutta: The artificial turf of the Salt Lake Stadium drew flak from the Atletico Madrid delegation, on Tuesday. Instead they liked the turf at the Barasat Stadium.
The six-member delegation, led by team owner and CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin, is on a whirlwind tour of the city to finalise a deal with the city franchise of the Indian Super League (ISL).
“The Barasat Stadium turf is better than the Salt Lake Stadium. But the distance is a factor. The Salt Lake Stadium is in the city and can accommodate over one lakh spectators,” Emilio Gutierrez, club’s director of marketing, said at the Barasat Stadium.
“We will invest a lot of money at the grassroots level here. So we have too see how to get the best result. It’s a whirlwind tour… We will come again, hopefully before September, to get a better idea about the way things are run here,” the official added.
At the Barasat Stadium, where three of the delegates — Alberto Marreno Diaz, Emilio and Carlos Aguilera — went, the footballers of the IFA Academy were asked whoch club do they support. “Atletico,” they said in unison. “Smart choice,” Emilio said laughing.
Emilio said they have an idea about the Indian football. "There is a lot of potential here. Calcutta is a city where people are passionate about the game. I saw so many framed photographs of international footballers in the dormitory where the kids are staying. This shows this city has a footballing culture," he added.
At the Salt Lake Stadium, Marin had asked about certain things — like a sports bar in the VVIP arena, more VVIP seats so that players can invite their relatives and friends to watch a match.
“We would like to have better parking facility here. The stadium is superb.
“I cannot imagine 1,20,000 spectators coming to the ground to watch a Derby. That means there is support and passion for the game here,” Gil Marin said.
Later in the day, Sourav Ganguly, one of the co-owners, said that in the meeting between the franchise and Atletico Madrid, the suggestions were discussed threadbare.
“We told them that the ground belongs to the state government. So we have to speak to the government first. We have told them that we will try our best to provide the facilities,” Sourav said.
Sourav was overall pleased with the way things went on Tuesday. “It was very constructive. We had a series of meetings. Jose Ramirez Barreto and Oscar Bruzon (Sporting Clube de Goa coach) came for interviews. A lot of things happened. I am also learning the nitty-gritties of football management. It’s a tough job,” he said.
Meanwhile, an Atletico source said that there are talks of brining the Champions League or the La Liga trophy to the city if the Spanish team is victorious in either or both. For the record, they are in the running for an historic double.
With two more rounds to go, they need six points to win the La Liga title, whereas in the Champions League final, they will face Real in an all-Madrid final. “Of course, talks are on about that thing… Obviously the football fans of the city will like to have a glimpse of the La Liga title.
“Date is a factor as the World Cup is round the corner and the players will be busy with national camps. We are thinking of doing something after the new season begins,” the source added.
But first and foremost, they have to win one of the titles, at least.