PANAJI: Saying that the Indian Super League is just not a marketing exercise but “serious business”, Shrinivas Dempo has hailed the new football league as a game-changer for the sport in India, which he feels would eventually raise the standard of the I-League.
“I feel there is a lot of synergy between I-League and the ISL. Players can move across teams and we will now have football all year round. Once ISL is successful, I think it will also raise the profile of the national league,” Dempo, who co-owns ISL’s Goa franchise and I-League team Dempo Sports Club, said after the official presentation of FC Goa manager Zico in the city on Tuesday.
“We’ve tried to sustain football for a long time. Earlier budgets were not very high. But then we had to sit together and think seriously about the sport. How do we classify football? Is it a part of CSR? Is it serious football? Will we ever be able to get returns on the investments one has made? And we realised that beyond a limit, football is a serious business and we had to make it serious business,” Dempo, who is also one of the vice-presidents of All India Football Federation, said.
“ISL has come about at the right time. I feel the ISL and I-League will complement each other. Both these tournaments are both important for the overall development of football,” he added.
The Dempo SC patron pointed out that the AIFF treats I-League as “mainstream” of Indian football.
“Praful Patel, the AIFF president has made it very clear that the I-League continues to be the mainstream of football in the country. Also, India is likely to host FIFA Club World Cup in 2015-16 and the I-League champions would get to play in the prestigious tournament. This is a great incentive for the I-League teams,” Dempo said.
Dempo also opined that in the run-up to the ISL, the tournament has managed to break free of skepticism it was earlier surrounded in.
“Earlier, there was skepticism that the ISL is going to be a marketing exercise, a branding exercise. You yourself can see what kind of quality is coming in; stadiums are being upgraded in every state. You have people like Zico who are adding a lot of value to the teams,” Dempo explained.
Meanwhile, according to Dempo, pulling off a coup to sign Zico was a great achievement for his team. “I know we made everyone wait. Everyone wants to know why Zico? Because he’s Zico. He is the finest player in the world in terms of strategy and professionalism. He’s a living legend. He has had an impressive coaching. We believe he can make a difference to football in India. The next step is to make sure to get India better qualified to compete in the World Cup,”
Asked if he was happy with the signings done by the team, Dempo answered in affirmative.
“We have a 40 to 50 years history in football. We have excellent players on board. Arthur Papas and the team have gone through the technical analysis and we have been pretty successful in getting the players we wanted, both domestic and international. And now we have Zico. He has already got down to business with the team. We not only have a great team, but a whole eco system which will work together towards success,” he said.
Dempo said FC Goa would do well to utilize the best services from Zico, as his contract runs only till the completion of the league. “My wish would be for him to be here in Goa permanently. That would be wonderful for the sport of football. There is no doubt that he will contribute immensely to football. But he may have other commitments which may not make it possible. I hope he continues to stay here longer,” he said.
ISL will raise I-League profile: Dempo