Mahindra United, currently second in the I-League, have decided to exit competitive football from next season. Disbanding the Mumbai-based team, owned by corporate giants Mahindra Group, was formalised on Thursday.
Alan Durante, chairman Mahindra United FC, said their diminishing title-prospects in I-League 3 had nothing to do with this. “The players have promised to give their best in our remaining three I-League matches. We will then try to defend our title in the MDFA Elite Division (the Mumbai local league) before closing down."
It wasn't also about costs, said Durante, who's been with the team since 1991 and under whom Mahindras have won almost everything in Indian football. “Nobody in Indian football makes money and had that been the reason, we would have shut shop five years ago." The club's annual budget, he said, was between Rs 7-10 crore.
Durante said the decision could affect the 'Mahindra' brand but added “we are not exiting soccer".
Ruzbeh Irani, executive vice-president corporate strategy, Mahindra Group, said: “This new initiative to train school kids is aligned with the Mahindra Group's philosophy of developing sport at the grassroots.”
The venture, Durante said, is a “work in progress.”
Last month, they held the Mahindra NBA Challenge, a programme aimed at developing basketball at the community level. This was in partnership with NBA, who run basketball in the USA.
Questioned about the timing of the announcement as Mahindras still have unfinished business in the I-League, Durante said it was done to give players “more time” to find other clubs.
Except for two footballers, Paresh Shivalkar and Ivorian Lamine Tamba, contracts of all players end next month, he said. “Even with them (Shivalkar and Tamba), settlement is not going to be an issue.”