Want to promote our brand in India through grassroots: Atletico chief

With Atletico returning to India, this time with a tie-up with Jamshedpur-based Tata Football Academy (TFA), club CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin was keen to remind reporters of the success of his club’s earlier partnership.

football Updated: Nov 25, 2018 09:18 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Atletico Madrid,ATK,ISL
Atletico Madrid were involved with ATK for the first three seasons of the ISL.

All seemed well for Atletico Madrid’s partnership with Atletico Kolkata when the latter, now renamed to ATK, won their second Indian Super League (ISL) title at the end of the third season of the tournament in 2016. A few months after the completion of the season, however, the two clubs parted ways, ending a tie-up that had begun when the ISL came into being in 2014.

With Atletico returning to India, this time with a tie-up with Jamshedpur-based Tata Football Academy (TFA), club CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin was keen to remind reporters of the success of his club’s earlier partnership. “We won the championship in the first season, reached the semi-finals in the second and won it again in the third,” he said during the announcement of the tie-up with Tata earlier this week.

So what went wrong? “We worked with Sanjiv Goenka (ATK co-owner) on how to manage the club. We put a few players, the coach, the sporting director in the team. Our involvement was limited to the professional team. We never had any option to develop our brand through the grassroots. This is the main reason we decided to leave. I have a great relationship with him (Goenka); he is a great entrepreneur but he has his own ideas about the academy and it’s the not the same as ours,” Marin later told this reporter.

“For me, it’s more important to think about the future than what happened in the past,” he quickly added.

And the club’s future in India involves collaboration with Tata’s academy as well as its club Jamshedpur FC. As far as the club is concerned, the first objective is to try and improve the team in the winter with new recruits, Marin said. The aim is to create as successful a partnership as with Atletico, he stressed.

However, the main focus of the collaboration, according to Marin, will be at the grassroots. Over the years, a number of European clubs have come to India to set up small scale academies or partner with existing academies.

China-like model

Asked how Atletico’s tie-up with Tata is any different from the branding exercises of other European clubs, Marin replied, “We don’t just bring our coaches here; we also take kids from here to train at our academy in Madrid. It’s the best way to exchange knowledge and experience; foreign kids and Spanish kids training together and learning from the same coaches, the same methodologies.”

Citing China’s example, where Atletico have been involved in similar grassroots projects, Marin claimed India could benefit from his club’s work in the country. “The success of this project (in China) is that if you look at their U-15 national team, you will find many players who have trained at our academy. It is the same model under which we are trying to work with Tata. They are the perfect partner for us,” he said.

The collaboration may not be at a scale large enough to impact Indian football in the near future but TFA certainly stands to gain from partnering with one of the world’s leading football clubs. Having earlier tied up with England’s Sheffield United, the academy will now hope to use the Spanish hand to bolster its player production machinery.

First Published: Nov 25, 2018 09:16 IST