The owner of the southern club stated that they won’t be bidding to join the I-League bandwagon for the 2014-15 season…
Rohit Ramesh, son of Ramesh Rangarajan, Director of Kasturi Sons Ltd., publishers of The Hindu, brought one of the oldest football teams in Chennai – Nethaji SC in December last year. In an interview with Goal, he shares his vision for the club and why he believes I-League is the perfect platform to promote Indian football.
Goal: We have heard about Netaji being re-christened? What are the reasons for the same?
Yes, Nethaji SC is henceforth called Chennai City FC. The reason is that we wanted to have a Chennai ‘connect’ with people, especially in the ideas of marketing and brand building. Considering that there are lots of government clubs in the league, we wanted to re-brand Nethaji SC as a Chennai-based private club. This was more on interacting with fans to be precise.
Goal: What’s the vision you have for the club? What is it that you wish to achieve in the long run?
The vision is to ensure we give our players a global experience. We face a problem of tapping in players, as most of them have government jobs and play for government clubs. It was a big task for us to buy the club this February. As we are a private limited club, it was tough for us to attract players. This time we are in a better position. As the market feels that we are professional, tie up contracts with players in the right way and pay the players on the spot.
This gives a better atmosphere because players now know that we do it the right way. We get calls from players wishing to join our club which is good. We have tied up with Ramchandra Medical College as our training ground.
Recently, we have started a program Under Chennai City FC called ‘ROHIT RAMESH PROJECT’. This project will completely concentrate on Indian football and growth of youth development and academies across the state. Through this project, we not only help our club but also look into sponsoring other clubs to develop football better.
We are looking into entering the Singha Cup In Singapore during November and give our players international experience as promised. Through this project Under Chennai City FC, we will also start an inter college league in August. The best talent found will have a chance to play for Chennai City FC. This is a long and a never ending project which we don’t wish to compromise on.
Goal: We were informed that you wished to bid for a direct berth into the I-League, something like JSW did last term. Is it still on?
Yes, we did get the bid document from the All India Football Federation (AIFF). We have complete support from Tamil Nadu Football Association (TNFA) and Chennai District Football Association (CDFA). We also had promising moves by other clubs to ensure their support to us for the release of the players to play for us in the I-League.
Strangely, the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) haven’t approved of the Nehru Stadium for us to make it as our home ground. The reason they say is that IMG have signed an MOU with SDAT and thus we won’t be ensured of the stadium. It’s confusing and strange. It is very upsetting because we wanted to put Chennai on the map as for Indian football.
But we will still fight and ensure we get it in the near future. I take this opportunity to thank the support I got through the Tamil Nadu and Chennai associations for their continual support during this period. I would also say thank you to other clubs who have shown us encouragement for Chennai to get into the I-League.
Goal: What are your thoughts on the I-League? Is it an exciting venture to invest and why?
I-League is definitely a good platform to promote Indian football. It is an exciting venture to invest but can’t guarantee money returns right away. Football is seen as a platform through the I-League and my main objective was to put our Tamil Nadu boys up there with the best of Indian football.
Goal: As an avid football fan, what is the need of the hour to entice a European football fan to start being ‘aware’ of football in India?
May be a bit of media help to promote Indian football will entice the public to know what football in India is all about. I guess I-League is therefore a good exposure for mapping Indian football. It all depends on how you market Indian football and clubs here. You need to make heads turn of the public to look back at your club to start with. Then you make him a fan on what we do on and off the field.
It will surely take time for European football fan to have an emotional attachment for a club in Indian football. But it isn’t impossible, as Bengaluru FC did it.
Ramesh: I-League is a good platform to promote Indian football