According to the co-founders, the club will focus on providing opportunities for the Indian youngsters and produce players for the national team.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Wednesday approved the corporate entry of Delhi-based Sudeva FC into the I-League. The club will hence compete in the second-tier domestic competition from the upcoming season. Following the announcement, the club’s co-founders Anuj Gupta and Vijay Hakari spoke in detail about their plans, vision and expectations.

According to the two founders, the club’s long-term goal is to become a channel for supplying players to the Indian national team and that they hope to achieve the aim through a variety of initiatives, ranging from the appointment of Spanish experts for training coaches, intense scouting and a full-fledged youth development programme.

“We would be bringing Spanish coaches, they would train our coaches and other coaches in Delhi-NCR,” Anuj Gupta said during a virtual press conference. “We had planned everything, but because of COVID-19 we could not launch our curriculum this year. Next summer we would be doing a lot of these curriculums, where we would be teaching the coaches. It will also involve diet, physiotherapy and educating the coach in a holistic manner, so that he can have his own academy.”

The duo also said they would be happy to secure a top-five finish in I-league in their first season. “If you talk of expectations in the first season, we have to see the reality, budget. If we finish in the top-five it would have to be a good performance, but a lot will depend on pre-season. For the longer term, the idea is to see ourselves in the ISL.”

“But, the bigger idea is how many players we can supply to the national team and help it come closer to qualification for the 2030 FIFA World Cup. We are not looking to win the championship, but looking to give more game-time to younger players, so that we can produce players for the national team,” they added.

Anuj Gupta further spoke about the club’s plans in the upcoming 2020-21 season and confirmed that they will not be signing foreign players for the time being, owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “We will have players from Delhi playing in the I-League this year. The composition would be 20% of players coming from Delhi. We have players who are graduating from Sudeva. The first batch is 2015 and they were all born in 2000. This year they will be turning 20, so 8-10 players are from there. There will be 7-8 mature players who have played in the I-League and then there will be trials, where I will be calling 30 players from across the country,” he explained.

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With the club’s entry into the second tier domestic league, top flight football is set to shift from the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to the traditional Ambedkar Stadium. “Our choice is always Ambedkar Stadium. We have to make sure that the ground is in a fantastic situation, the changing room has to be good enough. I think it would be a great idea to show the history of Ambedkar Stadium. Ambedkar Stadium is the place where you can feel the atmosphere and you are closer to the action,” Vijay Hakari reasoned.

Sudeva FC were previously known as Moonlight FC, before the current management took charge of the club in 2016. Two years ago, Sudeva Football Academy also became the first-ever entity from India to buy a European club, having acquired CD Olympic de Xativa, a club that plays in the Spanish Tercera Division. Some of the academy’s players have already played in the club’s reserve side. The club is also starting two more centres – in Kolkata and Uttarakhand – besides acquiring five grounds in Delhi.

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