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Atletico de Kolkata is born

Flanked by Atletico Madrid’s Miguel Angel Gil Marin (extreme left) and Javier Martinez (extreme right), Harshavardhan Neotia, Utsav Parekh, Sanjiv Goenka and Sourav Ganguly pose with the Spanish club’s jersey, at a city hotel, on Wednesday. The names of the four city-based co-owners are embossed on the back of their respective shirts. All the jerseys are numbered 19, which is worn by Atletico star Diego Costa. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: The city franchise of the Indian Super League will have Atletico de Kolkata as its name.

Atletico Madrid owner and CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin unveiled the name on Wednesday at a plush city hotel, in the presence of four co-owners from the city, Sourav Ganguly, Harshavardhan Neotia, Sanjiv Goenka and Utsav Parekh.

On May 3, The Telegraph had reported that the city franchise was almost certain to be named Atletico de Kolkata.

The name of the company formed by the group was also announced. It’s Kolkata Games and Sports Private Limited. However, the jersey and the crest were not unveiled since it has to get the green light from the master franchise ISL.

Neotia revealed that there is a plan of bringing the Atletico Madrid team to play a friendly match in the city. “They are very upbeat about it. There is also a plan to send Atletico de Kolkata to Madrid for the pre-season.”

Everyone was in a happy mood. If the Atletico delegates were presented with scarfs designed by Sarbari Dutta, the four co-owners were presented with the official Atletico jersey No. 19 with their respective names embossed on the back of the shirt. For the record, Atletico star Diego Costa wears the No. 19 shirt.

“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 Altetico de Madrid Foundation.

“We are trying two different ways… One through the academy and another through the franchise and play professional football,” Marin said.

Marin said the target is to build a competitive team and an excellent academy. “Some players from the academy can come to Madrid and my dream is to see someone from this academy playing in Spain,” he added.

Asked why they chose to invest in a country whose ranking hovers around 150, Atletico Madrid managing director (business development) Javier Martinez said: “You have a massive population and if you combine that with passion and discipline, you are bound to get results. We have seen that in many countries.”

Giving example of world champions Spain, he said: “They don’t have a huge population, but they have achieved everything with the right infrastructure and discipline. There is no reason why India can’t live up to its true potential. It’s the numbers game at the end of the day.”

Briefing about their discussions over the past two days, Neotia said the Atletico delegation was okay with the infrastructure at the Salt Lake Stadium and Barasat Stadium.

“They feel the foundation is appropriate. Yes we need to improve, but we should not have any difficulty in hosting any match in the present infrastructure. We hope to get state government support. But with elections on, we are yet to talk to the state government.”

Neotia said the Atletico de Kolkata’s desire is to have the main coach from Atletico. “But we need ISL’s approval. If they are okay, then there would be a second coach from India with working experience in our country. We have met some people, discussions are going on.”

Jose Ramirez Barreto, for instance, had a round of discussion with the delegates on Tuesday. And had another round of talks with the Atletico team on Wednesday.

“I am very keen to join the franchise. Let’s see how things unfold,” Barreto said.

There is a possibility that Barreto could be roped in as someone to whom the players can look up to. He can be the go-to man for the players, motivating them when the chips are down.

There is no clarity on the players though. As most of the players want to play for Atletico de Kolkata, the master franchise still hasn’t come with anything concrete. “We do not know whether there will be a pool of players or we will select it ourselves. Atletico Madrid are ready to provide players, but they need some clarifications from Fifa as well as ISL,” Neotia added.

Goenka hoped that Atletico de Kolkata will give the much needed push to the game. “We needed something like this. I am confident it will be a grand success,” he added.