The Swiss powerhouses are the latest among a slew of European clubs to enter into associations with domestic leagues and clubs.
A few days ago it was Minerva Punjab, now its Chennai City! It looks like some I-League clubs are taking their future plans really seriously.
Formerly known as Nethaji Sports Club, Chennai City Football Club and Swiss club FC Basel announced a partnership today in New Delhi, revolving primarily around infrastructure and youth expertise.
FC Basel Holding AG has also bought a 26% stake in the Indian club, which is the first time such a deal has taken place in Indian football.
In what could be good news for Indian football, the partnership will focus on many things, like setting up a world-class residential youth academy in Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu). The collaboration will also aim to establish other academies across the state.
Club President Rohit Ramesh said, “Our aim is to make a difference in Tamil Nadu. We want to see players in the Indian national team setup.”
He further added, “It is an honour to partner with a top European club like FC Basel, with a rich heritage. This is not a gimmick. I won’t promise things like player exchanges right now. What I can assure you right now is that there will be infrastructural improvement and also an academy, with the help of their expertise. We went to Switzerland and I was impressed with their facilities. To top it all, they also provide education to their talented players.”
Also when asked if the partnership could move CCFC to the ISL, Ramesh quipped, “Absolutely not. We are not looking to be part of the Indian Super League next season.” Currently, on top of the I-League table, Chennai City will be aiming to keep it serious for the next few games. It was only last week, when reigning league champions Minerva Punjab announced a tie-up with Bundesliga club Borussia Monchengladbach.
The Swiss club’s President Bernhard Burgener said, “India is one of the biggest democracies in the world. It is a sleeping giant. We are aiming to help Chennai to become a better club. Chennai and India can be a good footballing side. What we don’t realize is that India is one of the best sides in cricket, but it was England who founded the game. They founded football, maybe years down the line, India could reach similar heights in terms of football!”
Meanwhile, the head of FC Basel’s youth setup and also a former player Massimo Ceccaroni said, “The difference between India and Europe or South America is that you don’t see kids playing football in the streets. You see them playing cricket in the park, but not football. In Basel, we take in kids from a very early age. Our aim is to get along a good academy for Chennai and provide expertise.”
According to Burgener, this deal took around 1.5 years to finalize and could be a good thing for Indian football and Chennai City in general. He further reiterated that this wasn’t a financial gimmick, which was also reaffirmed by CCFC.
AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das who was also present at the conference said, “This (partnership) has the full support of the AIFF. Whatever is needed to be done, we will try our best. This is a good development for the sport in our country.”
Also CCFC co-owner R Krishnakumar said, “Basel are not expecting any money from us. This is an investment for football. We have not paid them. This is the first time a foreign club has done such an investment on an Indian club.”
FC Basel have proved the breeding ground for stars like Mohamed Salah, Xherdan Shaqiri amongst others. Maybe they will help Chennai find a star too! As part of the tie-up, the new academy will also provide free education and boarding facilities for talented players from 10-18 years old.