Kolkata: The Kolkata franchise of the much-anticipated Indian Super League was today christened Atletico de Kolkata, taking a cue from their Spanish co-owners and UEFA Champions League finalist Atletico de Madrid.
Owner and CEO of the Champions League finalist Miguel Angel Gil Marin along with his city based co-owners former India captain Sourav Ganguly, industrialists Harsh Neotia, Sanjiv Goenka and Utsav Parekh unveiled the team but said they were yet to finalise the jersey as it has to get an approval of the ISL.
There`s also a proposal to get the Atletico Madrid squad to play a friendly match here once the city team is formed.
"We are also looking for a pre-season training in Madrid for the Kolkata franchise," Neotia said.
Also unveiling the name of the consortium as the Kolkata Games and Sports Private Limited, the five parnters pledged to take Indian football to the next level.
"Atletico breathes football, lives around football. It`s a great idea to expand our brand and reach a new market. India are China are huge markets. Atletico also collaborates in different countries through Alteitco de Madrid foundation. We will try to support many kids who want to develop football.
"We are trying two different ways, one through academy and another side through the franchise and play professional football," Miguel said handing over an official La Liga football with autographs of the team members.
The Atletico officials also handed each of the four city owners their official Atletico Madrid jerseies with their respective names but a common number of 19 -- which belongs to their most popular player and captain Diego Costa.
"It will be a proud moment for us if we can take the Indian football to where it belongs. It will be a great moment for us if one day a Kolkata footballer is able to represent Atletico Madrid. We are planning to build an academy here and give them a window of an opportunity," Ignacio Aguillo, director of coprorate development at Atletico, said.
Ganguly said, "Our club will try and bring together the best talent to form a team with the driving thought of `playing to win`. Kolkata has been central to football in our country and our objective is to ensure that we re-gain the position.
"This time round, the difference will be to give football audiences a level of play which is par international and creates a pride and passion similar to what we see for global leagues and tournaments."
Asked why they chose to invest in a country whose ranking hovers around 150 and FIFA had termed them a `sleeping giant`, Aguillo said: "You have a massive population and if you combine that with passion and discipline, you are bound to have results. We have seen that in many countries."
Giving example of world champions Spain, he said: "They don`t have population but they have achieved with the right infrastructure and discipline. There is no reason why India can`t live up to its true potential. It`s numbers game at the end of the day."
Terming this a new beginning, former India captain Ganguly said: "We all grew up kicking a football. I`m sure it`s same with a lot of kids in the state. It`s a beginning of something different, give a push to the city. This will revolutionise football in this part of the world.
"We always had the passion but did not have the talent to match the passion for the game. I thank Atletico Madrid to be a part of us. We hope they liked the city at first sight."
Ganguly further wished Atletico all the best for the Champions League final and the Spanish League in which they`re leading the table.
"I also congratulate them for the wonderful season they had. They have a very very important month in front of them. From all of us and, the entire Kolkata wants you do well.
"We want them to be champions so that we start the season saying we`re already champions. Good luck for that. We are extremely proud to have you with us."
Asked how he sees the intiative vis-a-vis the hugely popular IPL in cricket, Ganguly said: "We don`t want to compete. We just want to play. We want to bring football to Kolkata. Kolkata is the place for football besides Kerala and Goa. We want cricket to be as popular as it is but at the same time we want to develop football as well.
"I don`t think two popular things can`t go together. The standard of football has to be good and I am sure popularity will follow," Ganguly said.
Briefing about their discussions, Neotia said the members said they were okay with the infrastructure in Saltlake Stadium and Barasat Stadium on the northern outskirts.
"They feel the foundation is appropriate to to build on the stadium. We should not have any difficulty in hosting any match in the present infrastructure."
"We hope to get support from state government. But with elections, we are yet to talk to the state government."
"On coach, our desire is that the main coach be from Atletico, but we need an approval of ISL. If they approve then there would be a second coach from India with working experience in our country. We have met some people, discussions are going on."
"We are seeking clarity on players. The Spanish team will be happy to provide players if FIFA and ISL approve of it. We have requested Atletico.