The Indian Super League outfit are the latest side to form an association with an European club.
Last year was a season to forget for anyone associated with Odisha FC. The club from Bhubaneswar finished at the bottom of the table, managing to win only two of their twenty matches. This led to many changes at the club, both on and off the field.
One of those changes saw the appointment of Raj Athwal, who was previously associated with the likes of Watford and Glasgow Rangers, as the new President in the middle of last season.
The Odisha top boss joined Khel Now’s ‘Beyond The Scores’ podcast recently. He sat down with host Ashish Negi and had a candid conversation.
The duo discussed many things, one of those being the recently-formed partnership with Premier League club Watford. Raj Athwal elaborated on Odisha’s partnership with the Hornets. He also explained why Odisha joined hands with Watford and how this partnership would benefit both clubs and Indian football at large.
The former Head of Commercial Partnerships with Rangers explained the reasons for selecting Watford for the partnership.
“I can’t talk on behalf of other ISL clubs and their partnerships. But, what I can tell you is that coming from British football and now working with the ISL, we sat down and we tried to understand what were our requirements, what were our priorities for the football club,” said Athwal.
“Because of my connections in England, I spoke to several Premier League directors about a partnership. What was important to me and I have said it in many interviews, it’s not the badge, it’s the substance. Because what I have recognized over the years is that a lot of clubs, irrespective of which country they are from, announce partnerships and it just fizzles out,” he added.
Benefits of partnership
The Odisha FC President emphasized on the positives of the partnership. He also spoke on how it will be beneficiary for both Odisha and Indian football. Raj Athwal also revealed that the Juggernauts will send young players to train at the Watford academy. The senior team is also likely to hold their pre-season at the Premier League club, where we could see Odisha FC locking horns with the Watford first-team in a couple of friendlies.
“We will be sending young players over from the youth team to train with the academy at Watford, where they will be able to develop all aspects of the game,” said Athwal. “They will learn about strength and conditioning, nutrition and training practices. That again will not only help Odisha Football Club but will also help the player and the national team. We can do our pre-season at Watford and hopefully, I will be able to organize a couple of friendlies,” added the Odisha FC head.
How is this partnership different
Many ISL clubs have had similar partnerships with other European or South American clubs. These partnerships eventually fizzled out with time or didn’t bear much fruit. However, the former Commercial Director of Watford was absolutely adamant that would not be the case in this association.
“This isn’t two opportunities a year and that’s it. We are in discussion with every other department. So, each department will speak to our department head about sharing best practice. Whether its commercial, whether it’s coaching, whether it’s strength and conditioning, right across the board, whether it’s media,” said Raj Athwal.
“At this moment of time it is confidential. But, it is only right that I tell you this now, so when it happens you will see what I was talking about. We are in discussion that our players will do a video and it will go all over Watford’s ocial media platforms. So, it’s a two way thing. I made it very clear to every club I spoke to. If you think you are coming up to India for a footprint, to sell shirts than forget it,” Athwal concluded.