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ATK should solve issues with Atletico Madrid: La Liga’s India head

ATK dissolving their partnership with Spanish club Atletico Madrid proved to be huge mistake and affected La Liga’s bid to connect with the country, says the league’s India head Jose Antonio.

football Updated: May 29, 2018 10:37 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
ATK,Atletico Madrid,La Liga
After winning the ISL twice and playing the semi-finals in all three editions, Atletico de Kolkata became ATK in the ISL 2017/18. (PTI)

La Liga’s India manager Jose Antonio said ATK, twice champions of the Indian Super League (ISL), should solve whatever problem they have with Atletico Madrid.

“They went from being champions with the Spanish model and (when they said) ‘we go British’, they were almost last. This is not good news. Whatever problem they have with Atletico Madrid, they should solve it. I think it is a huge mistake to say ‘I don’t want to know anything about Spanish football now’. It proved to be a huge mistake on the pitch. Given the characteristics of Indian players, the physical British game is not the best,” said Antonio in an exclusive interview here on Monday.

After winning the ISL twice and playing the semi-finals in all three editions, Atletico de Kolkata became ATK in the ISL 2017/18, with principal owner Sanjiv Goenka saying that the partnership with Atletico Madrid was over.

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That ended the pre-season preparations in Madrid and the Kolkata team being able to draw on Atletico Madrid’s vast resources in terms of coaching personnel and foreign players.

Atletico’s departure also affected La Liga’s bid to connect with India. “Had the relationship stayed, it would have been better for us. Theirs would have been a strong presence and it would have been a strong relationship for us… What we will have to do is try to understand what happened and avoid making the same mistake,” said Antonio.

Antonio though didn’t think that ATM’s absence affected ISL as a brand. Pointing out to similar arrangements by other franchises that didn’t survive the first year, he said the ISL’s biggest challenge is to get people to the stadium with what it offers.

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The ISL needs to grow organically and you need to give it time, he said. It needs European know-how and not branding. “If we can help them, we will,” he said.

Digital footprint

Having set up offices in India in September 2016 because it is a market for the future --- unlike China which is being wooed by all top European clubs now but which Antonio said, is overspending on football --- the centre-point of its strategy is to have a deeper digital footprint, he said.

“It has grown from 8 lakh to 2.5 million in one season,” he said. Content will soon be available in regional Indian languages, he said.

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There are plans to bring Spanish skills to India to boys and girls in metro cities and to get a La Liga team over. But it won’t be any of the big three: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

“We are not looking at the big ones. Being persistent is what we need. First, a team comes, the second and then the big ones realise that India is a market they need to look at,” said Antonio.

First Published: May 29, 2018 10:31 IST