Aizawl FC will be an all-Mizo team one day: owner Robert Royte
Aizawl FC owner Robert Romawia Royte heads the 10-year-old TT Royte Group, but is known more for his football passion and giving the game in Mizoram a professional touchfootball Updated: Apr 22, 2017 13:10 IST
Robert Romawia Royte heads the 10-year-old TT Royte Group, one of the top firms in Mizoram into a wide range of activities from construction to fishery and horticulture. He also contested, as an independent, the 2014 election for the lone Lok Sabha seat in Mizoram, finishing a close second.
But Royte, 50, is known more for his football passion and giving the game in the north-eastern state a professional touch after taking over giant-killer Aizawl FC, which has scripted a fairytale turnaround after facing relegation a year ago. Excerpts from an interview:
Did you approach Aizawl FC as one of your business ventures?
Cricket clubs in India do make money, but I am not aware of any football club being profitable. I invested in Aizawl FC not because of profit but because I am a born footballer, passionate about the game enough to not mind the expenditure.
What made you focus on a club that was defunct for years?
The challenge of starting from scratch makes a venture interesting. Aizawl FC was formed in 1984, but was defunct for almost 15 years when I became the club president and helped it revive in 2011. A year later, I took over the club as a single owner and focused on giving it a professional edge.
What is the annual budget of your club?
It is difficult to be concise, but Aizawl FC must be one of the smallest budget clubs in India, certainly among the I-League teams.
How difficult has it been to run Aizawl FC?
When you have a proactive government (chief minister Lal Thanhawla, a footballer himself, had written to the All India Football Federation asking if Aizawl FC could stay in I-League despite a poor run last year), an enthusiastic football association and people who know their football inside out, the job gets easy. As club owner, it has been an exciting journey so far.
What has made football in Mizoram scale new heights?
Mizoram always had players, but the focus on infrastructure development and youth development programmes has given the game a big boost in the past few years. The state is maintaining modest football academies and our club is in the process of starting a new residential academy that will offer academics besides quality football training.
Much of your team’s success of late has been attributed to foreign players.
Our team has four foreigners (captain and forward Alfred Jaryan from Liberia, midfielder Mahmoud al-Amna from Syria, defender Kingsley Obumneme from Kenya and Kamo Stephane Bayi from Ivory Coast, among the leading goal scorers in this I-League) and three Indians from outside Mizoram.
But the local boys have played an equally important part in taking our club this far. After some time, it will be possible to face challenges from other clubs with an all-Mizo Aizawl FC.