AT THE UNVEILING OF THEIR MARQUEE SIGNING for the 2015 edition of ISL, FC Pune City CEO Gaurav Modwel took to the stage, outlining to assembled journalists and fans how over the last few months Pune City has carried out a multi-pronged plan to prepare for the upcoming ISL campaign as well as undertaking grassroot development programmes, and increasing engagement with fans at the same time.
He spoke of the new coaching staff that have joined the contingent. Goalkeeping coach Massimo Battara, for example, has worked at clubs like Manchester City and Schalke. Fitness coach Niall Clark has plied his trade at EPL sides Arsenal, West Ham and Manchester City. The new physio is Matt Radcliffe, who worked with Manchester United last year as a consultant, in the rehabilitation of injured players. Ex Indian international Renedy Singh has also joined Pune City as the assistant coach. With a new-look squad and coaching setup, Pune City hope to improve on the unimpressive show they put on in the inaugural ISL.
As part of the their grassroot efforts, Pune City worked with 40 schools to create a common footballing curriculum, and conducted training sessions based on it. From these sessions they shortlisted 250 kids, who were further shortened to a contingent of 50 who formed their Under 14 and Under 15 teams.
Modwel also detailed how over the last few weeks they have increased their efforts to connect with the fan, carrying out surveys to find out how they could improve the fans' experience on matchdays and other times. They recently gave official status to a fan club called the Orange Army, and are opening an official merchandise retail store in the city. These steps represent the franchise's first concrete efforts to send down roots and become an integral part of the community at Pune.
Slowly, but surely, Pune City is reinventing itself, becoming much more than a 2-month franchise. With the junior teams in place they are getting closer to transforming into a diverse, ever-active, grounded entity that a football club is supposed to be. With rumours of a merger between ISL and I-League picking up pace, one thing is for sure: should that be the case, Pune City will be more than ready to take on Pune FC in the battle to win the loyalty of the local fans.
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