A section of the press had earlier reported that Odisha FC and the Kolkata outfit could merge.
A lot of developments surrounding the Indian Super League have popped up recently with rumours mainly engaging mergers. However, on Thursday, a day before Odisha FC’s home game against NorthEast United FC, owner Rohan Sharma cleared the air with his statements on a potential tie-up with Kolkata giants East Bengal FC.
Mohun Bagan have already announced their merger with ATK and are set to play in the ISL next season as a merged entity. But things aren’t that rosy for their arch-rivals East Bengal as their investors, Quess Corp., are set to part ways and wind up operations by 31st May and therefore there were reports of the Red and Gold brigade joining hands with neighbouring state’s only ISL outfit.
“Not at all. Not even close (to ink a deal) because Odisha and Kolkata have always been arch-rivals. (There cannot be one team between the two cities). It’s always an Odisha-versus-Kolkata (Bengal) kind of a thing,” Sharma told to PTI rubbishing all rumours of a merger.
“We have no interest. There’s absolutely no truth to it. I’ve absolutely zero interest in East Bengal. We just got a team, we don’t want to revamp anymore,” Sharma added.
The Odisha FC owner also clarified that they have had no conversation with East Bengal regarding this issue and the only connection that both clubs have is Tathagata Mukherjee, who was Delhi Dynamos’ technical officer and is currently the Director of Sports with the Red and Golds.
“Tathagatha Mukherjee (who is the sports director of East Bengal) has been the only connection between the two clubs. I don’t know from where did the rumours crop up,” Rohan Sharma continued.
The ATK-Mohun Bagan merger has received mixed reactions from critics and supporters as the concepts of jersey and logo aren’t clear to them. Also, several questions have popped up and there have been no clarifications.
Sharma feels that it will be tough for Sanjiv Goenka’s ATK to go through this phase as they look to knit the perfect balance between both sides.
“You know how much ATK going to go through for that. It’s going to be a very delicate balance of merging a team with a lot of history. ATK have won the title twice but Mohun Bagan is one of the historical clubs of India. It will be very hard to keep both fans happy. I don’t want to do that with my team.”
“I’m happy being Odisha FC for the people of Odisha. I don’t want to change it by adding another club. Want to make this club ‘for the people, of the people, by the people’ of Odisha kind of thing.”
He later shifted to more positive things and while speaking about the growth of the ISL, he added, “It’s good that the league is growing. Now you have an AFC Champions League berth. It’s good to see more matches focus on having a European-like league. Having more I-League clubs obviously helps.”
“I would like to see a two-tier system with promotion and relegation like the basic club leagues all the world have. We are starting on the path. Hopefully, in the next two years, I think we’ll have a proper two-tier system where,” Rohan Sharma concluded.
Odisha FC have shown great interest in providing platforms for the young kids to showcase their talent and therefore in less than a year of shifting their base and getting re-branded, the club is all set to open their residential academy soon. While Sharma also assured that they are planning to organise an Inter-school tournament in Odisha to spot the young gems early.