The Bengaluru FC owner has voiced his ambition to boast the best football academy in India.

Director and owner of Bengaluru FC Mr Parth Jindal has helped football in the country take massive strides in recent years and has overseen the Blues become one of the most successful Indian clubs. Since its inception in 2013, Bengaluru have won the Hero Indian Super League once, the Hero I-League twice, the Federation Cup twice and the Hero Super Cup once.

They also became the only club from India to qualify for the final of the AFC Cup in 2016 and Mr Jindal explained some of the reasons behind his club’s successes in an insightful interview with Anant Tyagi during the latest episode of Let’s Football Live.

Coming from a cricket-loving country, Mr Parth Jindal opened up on why he chose to invest in Indian football at a time when not many were willing to. ”A lot of people ask me why we started Bengaluru FC and why JSW invested money into Indian football. The answer is when we studied sport and JSW is in multiple sports. We support Olympic sports, we have the high-performance Olympic training center, which supports boxing, wrestling, judo and track and field. We have investments in kabaddi and cricket as well. So, people ask me, ‘why did you choose football?’ But I have been a very passionate football fan,” he said.

“I’ve been an Arsenal fan ever since I was a child and studied a lot about what’s the best way to make an impact on Indian football and realized that the best way to do it was through a club. That’s how the idea of starting Bengaluru FC actually came about. We were very clear that the number one aim and objective of Bengaluru is to produce players from our youth academy who will graduate into our B-team, who will then graduate to the Bengaluru squad and hopefully we are so good that the Indian team manager looks at our squad and picks our players for the national team. We have been very fortunate since a lot of the national team players in the last seven years are from the Bengaluru squad.

It was a sub-par season for the former Indian Super League champions as Bengaluru FC stumbled in the play-offs by eventual winners ATK.

“Whether it’s Nishu Kumar, Udanta Singh or now Ashique Kuruniyan. Whether it’s Sandesh Jhingan, Rahul Bheke, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Thoi Singh, Amrinder Singh, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the list is very long. Our aim has always been that we have to create the next player. Now I am very excited about Suresh (Singh Wangjam), I think he will get a national team call-up anytime. There are eight players from the B-team that Carles Cuadrat has taken into the senior squad for the 2020-21 season. So, we really pride ourselves with our youth academy and getting this recognition is massive and incredible. We are very proud but it’s just one part of our journey and this is a long journey because I will not rest until India qualify for the FIFA World Cup. That’s the goal and that’s the dream,” Mr Jindal asserted.

Investing in youth

One of the best run youth academies in India, the good work being done by the JSW Bengaluru FC Academy was recently recognized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), who granted them and the Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) Academy based in Navi Mumbai a Two-Star Academy status. While elaborating on the JSW Bengaluru FC Academy, Mr Jindal stressed the importance of having a ‘pyramid structure’ in place.

“The thought process was that we have to have a pyramid structure with Bengaluru’s main squad at the top and then we have to grow the base. We started with the U-7, U-9 and U-11 programmes in Bengaluru because we realized that for kids of these ages, their parents may not be sure if there’s a future in football. Whether they want to dedicate their life to football or not… so it’s important for them to stay at home but come to practice every day. That was our understanding and hence we created that. Then at the U-13 and U-15 level we realized that this is the age when a child actually commits his future to football,” he said.

“Moving to a residential academy, co-living with all our Olympic aspiring athletes who are also of a similar age would make a lot of sense. So that’s how we created the residential academy programme. We also saw that the biggest challenge in Indian football is that you don’t get much match practice at a young age and competitive games compared to kids of a similar age in Europe, United States, Japan or any other developed footballing nation. They get a huge number of games under their belt. So, we realized that after 15, we should move players back to Bengaluru and created their housing in the same wing as the main squad. Now you have 15, 16 and 17-year-old kids practising with the main squad.

“We created the BFC B-team which participates in the second division of the I-League to get a lot of practice. Apart from the second division of the I-League, they play in the BDFA (Bangalore District Football Association) Super Division just to get more practice. Carles and Naushad Moosa (Bengaluru’s assistant coach) is constantly watching and some of them get called for practice with the main squad where they are rubbing shoulders with all these legends. So, they play the role of the ball boy, the kit manager and everything. Every now and then Sunil and other foreign players give them tips and go watch them play… we also visited foreign academies and the Tata Academy and realized that we must have a blend of the two to be successful. It’s challenging because of the investment and long-term vision but if people like us, Reliance and Tata don’t take the mantle then who will?” Mr Parth Jindal asked.

Bengaluru FC’s legacy in Indian football

He then emphasized the importance of producing Indian players capable plying their trade abroad, while also continuing to be a conveyor belt of talent for the national team. “We want to continue developing our own players. My first goal is to successfully sell or loan an Indian player to a foreign league. And hopefully get them to be successful there. Gurpreet went to Norway but I want more and more Indian players to get exposure abroad because that’s how I truly believe that the quality of Indian football will improve. If you talk to Sunil or Gurpreet, they talk so highly of their stints at Kansas City or Stabæk or Sporting Lisbon,” Mr Parth Jindal shared.

He continued, “I think that’s a real goal. I see real potential in Udanta. I think Udanta is one such player who can get a stint abroad and can benefit from it. We did send him to Oxford United in League Two and they were very impressed but there were some visa issues, which didn’t allow him to stay there. But that would be our next goal… we also want to keep developing new players for the national team and give them to Igor Stimac to choose from.”

As far Bengaluru FC’s legacy in Indian football goes, Parth Jindal made it clear that he wants the Blues to be remembered as the club that was the catalyst for the footballing revolution in the country. “The way we would like Bengaluru to be remembered is that we were the catalyst in this entire movement of getting Indian football up there and recognized. The legacy that I want to leave behind is that we are a very transparent and professional organization. If we can beat the world in cement, power and steel production and can compete with everyone in the world. Why can’t we do it in sport? Why can’t we do it in the most global sport of all, which is football,” he opined.

“That’s the dream and challenge which we took first and then everyone else came in. We want to continue down that path. One club and an organization cannot do it for a country as large as India. So, to be known as the club that started the professional journey in Indian football is how I would like Bengaluru FC to be remembered,” Parth jindal concluded.

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