Famous international cricketers wearing football studs for club or country aren’t that rare. Among others, Dennis Compton represented England, Viv Richards Antigua, Ian Botham was Scunthorpe United’s centre-forward for a while and Kapil Dev had a cameo with East Bengal.
Not much is known though, about cricketers having ownership stakes in football clubs. That’s why Rohan Gavaskar becoming a stakeholder at Pune FC is somewhat of a rarity.
After being formed in 2007, the club has made rapid progress and will be rubbing shoulders with the big boys of Indian football in the top tier of the I-League later this year. Rohan is one of the six owners with the three Piramal brothers and two others.
“It’s out of passion for the game. There are no financial considerations,” Rohan, who has turned out for India in 11 one-day internationals, told HT.
“It was a dream to own a football club and we aren't driven by the idea of changing Indian football.”
It’s going to be a costly affair though, with the club planning to spend nearly Rs 5 crore this season. Rohan said the idea at the moment is to survive in the top tier. “I know Indian football is followed only in pockets of the country. So we intend building our own team of supporters in Pune.”
In order to mobilise support, Pune FC has started reaching out to schools and developing its own U-17 and U-19 teams. “We will field our U-19 team in the Pune league,” said Rohan, adding that T-shirts, caps and key chains with the club logo embossed on them are being distributed among spectators from time to time.
“We are not in a position to sell them yet because there are hardly any buyers. Hopefully, the school and junior programmes we have launched will help us have a proper merchandising programme in place in five years,” said Rohan.
Even though the club doesn't have a sponsor, it has started taking steps in the right
direction by hiring Derrick Pereira as coach from Mahindra United and buying India No 1 goalkeeper Subrata Paul from East Bengal. They also have a paid CEO in Chirag Tanna, something most I-League clubs don't.
Indian cricket and football are poles apart as far as the profiles, fan following and social status go. Through Rohan and Pune FC, these disparate worlds have come together. Time will tell what the association yields.