Champions of Hero I-League 2018-19, Chennai City FC’s CEO, and owner Rohit Ramesh says the “ultimate goal remains to reach a stage where we will be able to build a successful team around the local players, and not foreign recruits.” In an interview, Ramesh speaks at length about the club’s ‘marriage’ with FC Basel, aim of developing a local talent pool, strategic changes made this season, life as Hero I-League champions and much more. EXCERPTS:
What’s Chennai City FC’s long-term philosophy?
Our long-term philosophy is to cultivate our own style of football – the Chennai City FC style -- throughout the ranks. We want our junior teams to play the same way as the senior team is now playing. That would improve the ecosystem immensely.
For the past few years, we have had a good set of local players as well. You look at the likes of Pandiyan, Edwin Vanspaul, Pravitto Raju, Romario Jesuraj, and Regin -- they have all played successfully at the top level. Our ultimate goal remains to reach a stage where we will be able to build a successful team around the local players, and not foreign recruits.
How much will the partnership with FC Basel help?
Development needs to start at the local level first. The main goal of our club has always been to nurture local footballers. The marriage with FC Basel is certainly going to be helpful in that regard.
Could you elaborate?
We want to target talented players at a very young age, and having Basel’s expertise to mould the young talents into top footballers would be crucial to build a better future for, not just the club, but also football in Tamil Nadu, and Indian Football overall.
What it also does is that it gives the players an added incentive to look at football, and Chennai City FC as a professional unit, and a career option. Not everyone who plays Sevens football at the local level can make it to the top. But they can enter the system by becoming coaches, physios, or analysts. This is an area where FC Basel’s help comes in.
Hopefully, in the future, we can start educating young kids at an early age in our philosophy, but with the help of FC Basel.
You came to the Hero Super Cup as Hero I-League champions. Has it sunk in yet?
We never expected to be where we are right now, and I am quite delighted. This is just going to give a good future with regards to how we play, how each and every local player approaches the game, and how we go about from now on. We had a chat with the coach during last season’s Super Cup itself, and we had decided that our prime target would be to finish in the top six, or top four this season.
Did you make any changes in the administration to make the target a reality?
Overall there has not been much change in the way we approach work administratively. We have always tried to run the club in a professional manner. But this season the foreigners have really gelled well with our local players, something that has helped us immensely. We gauged it during the pre-season itself that we could actually do wonders in our campaign.
What was the strategic change in the manner the team plays?
In the last two seasons, we had roped in the local players first, and then our foreign recruits. This season, we did it the other way round. We signed a few foreigners, and then went around to build a team around them.