Mumbai: In a major blow to football in the
metropolis, Mahindra United Football Club will be disbanded at
the end of current I-League season with focus of the parent
company shifting towards developing talent at school level.
"We have decided to get out of competitive soccer and
get into grassroots soccer at schools level. This means at the
end of the I-League we would not be taking part in any
competitive soccer but training school kids to make them
better prospects in soccer," said the club`s Chairman Alan
Ruzbeh Irani, Executive VP Corporate Strategy, M&M Ltd,
said the decision to get out of competitive football after so
many years, first as Mahindra and Mahindra Sports Club and
then from 1991 as Mahindra United FC, was in line with the
Group`s "philosophy and shift in focus from taking part in
professional sport to developing it".
"We feel we can make a much bigger difference to sport in
India at the schools level in soccer and grassroots level in
basketball (after associating with National Basketball
Association of USA in Mahindra NBA Challenge), than by running
one professional team," he added.
Durante said that contracts of 98 per cent of the current
lot of professional footballers would be over by the end of
May or June 10. Mahindra Group MD and vice-chairman Anand Mahindra said
in a statement that the company was sure the decision to bring
closure to a successful pro football team to focus their
energies and efforts in training young footballers "would go a
long way in giving the sport the fillip it needs in India".
"Mahindra United has been an integral part of our legacy
and journey in football. We are proud of our team - the
players, support staff and management - who have brought both
Mahindra United and Brand Mahindra success and respect," he
Mahindra United has been a very successful team and has
won the National Football League pennant in 2005, as well as
the IFA Shield, Durand Cup, Federation Cup and Super Cup
during its reign as one of the top teams in the country.
The decision to wind up the football club, which is
currently second in the I-League`s standing behind leaders
Dempo of Goa, has been conveyed to the players and support
staff today, Durante said.
Asked about the new initiative to develop football at
school level all over the country, Irani said, "It`s a work in
progress and will start in a couple of months` time."