Delhi very difficult market, we could have gotten more help from government,’ Odisha FC club director
Delhi Dynamos recently relocated their base from the national capital to Bhubaneswar, Odisha after playing for five years in the Indian Super League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi. It had been speculated for long that Delhi owners were looking to move out from the city due to some infrastructural issues at the stadium. The fears of the Delhi fans were proven to be true as it was confirmed that the Delhi Dynamos will now be known as Odisha FC and will ply their trade at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
An agreement was signed on Saturday between Sports & Youth Services Department of the Odisha government and Delhi Soccer Private Limited, which confirmed the deal. So what prompted the owners of Dynamos to move out from a lucrative market in the capital and move to Bhubaneswar? Club director Rohan Sharma spoke exclusively with Hindustan Times and discussed the issues he had in Delhi and explained the decision to shift base to another city.
‘It was a very hard decision to move. The biggest two issues we had is that we had such a big infrastructural problem. What I mean by that is that it takes so much for the training, stadium and everything. Cost was a struggle. Usually if you are a football town or city, you usually have a little leeway, some cuts or something financially. One thing that happened is if I wanted to put up something in the stadium (then it wasn’t possible).’
‘It wasn’t really a fun experience in JLN because one thing was that the stands were so far away. If you go to a stadium in Chennai or Mumbai then it feels as if you enter a new room. If I want to put a lion crest on the stadium or anything, like the Starks or Lannisters in Game of Thrones. But I just couldn’t do that. There are constant issues like that.
Rohan also admitted that the club tried to move their home stadium from JLN to the nearby Ambedkar Stadium. But their request was shot because of the broadcasting issues.
‘We have had problems with the government, SAI and I even tried to move the stadium to Ambedkar. But the problem with Ambedkar is that it is not fit for broadcast and the cost to refurbish is also there. We did not have control over the stadium. Now in Odisha, we will have control over what to do inside the stadium but we still share it with Indian Arrows. In Bhubaneswar, life as a football team is a lot better.’
Another issue with the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium was a lack of fan support. The stadium continuously faced the problem of empty stands. It was a difficult task for the former Dynamos to fill out a 60,000 thousand stadium and it ultimately saw a lack of atmosphere for the home team. Rohan explained that one of the reason why they decided to move out of Delhi was due to the city being a ‘very fickle market.’
‘The problem with Delhi is that it is so wide-spread. We did a lot of things in Delhi with schools and colleges, with the differently-abled or other disadvantaged people. But it is a drop in the ocean as it is so widespread. But if we do it in Bhubaneshwar then I am sure it will be a bigger story.’
‘It was hard to make an impact as Delhi is such a big city. I always believed in developing youth Indian players and tried to do that. But it is a fickle city as if you don’t do well then the support goes. We tried what we can do but it did not turn out like it. I hope there comes a football team in Delhi and they can do better than I did. I’ll take the blame 100% then. It is a very difficult market. At least Bhubaneswar is a small city, there’s land around and the government is willing to support us. Everybody is willing to help us. It will not be like in Delhi where our staff is always fighting in offices about ‘can we do this, can we do that.’
With Pune City FC also shutting shop, Indian Super League will see the name of two new teams. Rohan was asked if the league could have provided more support to the club. But he refused to lay the blame on the league.
‘The problem with Delhi is that it is such political city, so I don’t think the league could have done that much. There are too much bureaucrats. If you ask me what could have been done then the stadium or some packages should have been given to us for free. I wouldn’t blame it too much towards the league but we could have gotten more help from the government.’
The rumours of the move from Delhi had been going on for the past year. All the while, Rohan was very vocal about denying those reports on Twitter and in the media. So the fans might feel a little cheated when it was announced that the Dynamos are being renamed Odisha FC and moving away from the capital city. The club director denied that the negotiations were going on in the background while he was denying all the reports of going out of Delhi.
‘When I said that, we were never planning to move, we weren’t considering any move for a long time. Recently my father started to think about it but he wasn’t really sure. Delhi as a name is very appealing. There were issues with travel also. But these things happened very quickly. The Odisha CM offered us to move and soon there was an offer and that is when things started. Everything has happened in the last month or so. However, I personally wanted to be in Delhi. We will continue the academies in Delhi and we will not shortchange the kids who have gone through our program. I still believe in the youth talent in Delhi.’