‘Shivajians part of DSK, but not affected by external happenings’
As chief operating officer of an I-League club, Amit Vanjari, had a different schedule. DSK Shivajians however is no longer in the I-league. In fact its owner, at least in terms of the name DSK, is in police custody. Property developer D S Kulkarni is awaiting trial over charges of cheating investors in his holding firm, DSK Group. DSK’s wife Hemanti is also in custody and her son Shirish Kulkarni is seen at Shivajians football club as the man with the plan. That plan is now in question. With the club no longer in the I-League, Vanjari’s ambit has changed. What does the DSK imbroglio hold for Pune’s legacy team, Shivajians football club? Vanjari did not duck the question but instead seemed reasonably certain of the immediate future in his conversation with Pranav Shahaney.
How did Shivajians jump from being a local city team to the I-League?
We participated in the second division of the I-League in 2013, but did not perform particularly well. However, we did not lose heart and continued building our youth teams so that they could challenge for qualification in the foreseeable future. In 2015, we finally made it into the I-League as the AIFF (All India Football Federation) came to us with the proposal of a direct entry into the league and also exempted us from relegation for our first three seasons.
Shirish Kulkarni, director and financial backbone of DSK Shivajians, is in trouble in terms of the DSK empire crumbling. How and why did he take over the club?
He has a heartfelt connection with the city and the fans of the club. Being a former football player and an enthusiast, his energy has been infectious since day one. He had a vision of building a football team that was from the core of Pune and had the local vibe about it. His plans were that the players had to be developed to a level that they can represent the club in the national level leagues, and that is exactly what happened. Kulkarni wanted the players to receive state-of-the-art facilities all under one roof, so he built the Dream City Football Fields.
What’s the plan now going forward, given DSK’s financial issues? Is the club’s exit from the I-League a point of no return?
There have been no hassles whatsoever since we pulled out of the I-League competition. Yes, a few people decided to walk out, but that’s their choice. Everything here has been running seamlessly ever since and we are out on the right track to achieve our goals. We are continuing to develop youngsters for the future and waiting for the AIFF’s approval to return to the league.
Given DSK properties are being possessed by state government because of cases filed with the economic offences wing of Pune police, do you think Dream City Football Fields will survive?
I cannot comment on these things as I’m just a small employee of the club. I don’t have any knowledge about the things that are being auctioned, but we are working as a unit and all are wings are operational. So according to me, we don’t have any problems with the external factors surrounding the DSK group.
Will Shivajians consider dropping ‘DSK’ from the club’s name?
The club was taken over by the DSK group a few years back so it is totally their property now and all the club’s operations are controlled by them.
Surely the DSK brand value has dropped in the eye of the public. Can this not directly impact the club brand?
Shivajians is part of the DSK group, but it is in no way connected or affected with the things that have been happening externally. We’re going about things same as before, without encountering any problems.”