The Juggernauts have signed a three-year association with the Premier League outfit.
Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Odisha FC became the most recent Indian club to announce a landmark three-year partnership with Premier League outfit Watford FC. The partnership will be mutually beneficial for both clubs and will be functional in regions of their operations and will cover different aspects.
Following the announcement, representatives from both Odisha FC and Watford addressed the media on August 1. They spoke about a brief idea on what the partnership is all about and here’s what they had to say.
The partnership in brief
President of Odisha FC, Raj Athwal spoke of the vision of both teams associated in the partnership.
“Watford have a vision similar to ours, aligned to our ambitions and what we want to achieve as a club. What we’re talking about is in terms of the community development, academy. It will totally change the landscape for Odisha Football Club,” he quipped.
“We’ll be looking to potentially have a pre-season for our first team over here. We will also have several of our youth players, who’ll be able to train with Watford academy teams, which will not only develop the aspects of their own game but will also help Odisha football club and also Indian football as well. Women’s football will also be a key to our development,” Athwal explained.
Why Odisha FC?
While there are many clubs in the top-tier of Indian football’s ecosystem, Watford decided to extend their partnership to Odisha FC. Speaking about the reason behind the commitment, Watford’s commercial director Paul O’Brien revealed why.
“I think going backwards a few years, India was an area where we really wanted to expand our fan base, but we didn’t really have a strategy about it, we tried a lot of on-ground activities,” Said Paul O’Brien, Watford’s commercial director.
But, things started falling in place after O’Brien met Rohan Shukla, the international marketing officer for Watford FC.
“Rohan (Shukla) had an idea of the new strategy. He came up with a number of options which didn’t seem right for us for a number of reasons, but Odisha did. So, Raj [Athwal] and I had a call. I explained that our objective isn’t to get into India grab a database and run out with just some funds. We wanted grassroots and activities,” he mentioned.
“Raj absolutely bought into that so that’s where it started. From there and then, Raj introduced me to the club owners and that’s where the relationship started. I’m very proud to be with you guys today announcing it,” he asserted.
The Odisha FC president went on to explain how women’s football will be a key in the partnership with Watford.
“Women’s football is absolutely key. It’s very important that we don’t take our eye off of women’s football. That was another reason for joining with Watford. The professional setup they have, with regards to women’s development, is amazing. We have the opportunity now in India to grow women’s football, especially in Asia. We are committed to it. As I said, we will start very soon. There is scouting going on at the moment in Odisha as we speak. Hopefully, we can have some positive news soon,” he revealed.
O’Brien also agreed to Raj Athwal as he went on to say, “We’re very passionate about our women’s team. I think one of the big points with Odisha was that they were taking women’s football seriously. And I don’t think we would be sitting here if they weren’t.”
The officials were also asked about how the partnership will benefit both clubs as conducting on-ground activities remain impossible due to the pandemic.
“The pandemic has hampered a lot of issues with football as we all know. It isn’t just about developing footballers, we’re talking about nutrition, analysis, diet. I think over time we’ll be able to sit down and see how far we have developed as a team,” Athwal stated.
What to expect from Odisha FC in the upcoming season.
After a season to forget, Odisha are understandably determined to script a comeback. They have roped in Spanish legend David Villa on board as their Head of Global football operations and have also added quality firepower to their ranks.
Speaking about what to expect from the Juggernauts this season, Odisha FC’s head of football operations Abhik Chatterjee explained, “I think the vision is very clear, we want to change the perception about the club. We wanted to be a progressive brand. I think we’ve done a lot of work both on and off the pitch. There was a big, big focus in terms of ensuring that we get structures in place.
“With the partnership with Watford and the work that we’ve been doing on the field as well, everybody’s very optimistic. I think for the football club, of course, a lot of people will measure it in terms of where you finish it in the table. But, I think it’s about the impact that you make in your community.”
“Our main motive this season is to ensure that anybody who’s looking at Odisha FC from the outside, sees it as an exciting brand to get associated with. Players looking at Odisha FC should think, well, you know I can join this club and there’s an opportunity for me maybe to go to Watford to train there. All of this is actually to make an impact within India and Odisha and hopefully, all this energy translates onto the pitch. We can give our fans and we can give the Indian football community something very special this season in terms of results as well,” he concluded.