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FC Basel's partnership with Chennai City FC may prove to be game-changer for Indian football

FEATURED WRITER
Feature
07 Feb 2019, 15:33 IST

(L-R) Peter Martin Von Bueren, CFO of FC Basel; Roland Heri, CEO of FC Basel; Rohit Ramesh, Co-owner of Chennai City FC; Bernhard Burgener, President of FC Basel; R Krishnakumar, Co-owner of Chennai City FC; Massimoh, Head of Youth Development at FC Basel
(L-R) Peter Martin Von Bueren, CFO of FC Basel; Roland Heri, CEO of FC Basel; Rohit Ramesh, Co-owner of Chennai City FC; Bernhard Burgener, President of FC Basel; R Krishnakumar, Co-owner of Chennai City FC; Massimoh, Head of Youth Development at FC Basel

Top Swiss Football Club FC Basel recently joined hands with Chennai City FC in what may prove to be a path-breaking deal. It is the first deal of its kind wherein Basel have acquired 26% shares of the I-League club. 

The partnership between the two clubs promises not only to be a game-changer for Chennai City but Indian football as a whole. FC Basel and Chennai City FC both have the common goal of supporting and enabling local players to make it big. 

Co-owner of CCFC, Rohit Ramesh said at a Press Conference in New Delhi:

"It has been 4 years since we arrived on the Indian footballing map and individually I feel we have done what could have been done within our resources. This season has been excellent so far and I hope we continue that form. We have fulfilled what had to be done in the short span."
"Initially, the focus will be on building a facility wherein we can tent everyone in one place - have the youth and main team in one place. We want to delegate the players. It will be a test for us and we want to see whether we have a sustainable model. The marriage with FC Basel can serve as a good equation towards the future. There will certainly be more professionalism with their expertise coming in."

Recently, there was also a collaboration between Minerva Punjab and German club Borussia Monchengladbach. However, that was quite different. Minerva already have a strong Youth setup while Chennai City FC are yet to pay much attention to this aspect.

When asked if another reason behind the tie-up was to foray into the Indian Super League, Rohit exclaimed:

"Absolutely not! To be very honest, even when we had discussions with our fellow partners at FC Basel, ISL was not on the cards at all. We are happy where we are and currently want to concentrate on our next 6 matches of the I-League. Infrastructure is extremely essential for us. With the right mindset and attitude of our collaboration we should only focus on that."

Mr. Bernhard Burgener, the President of FC Basel, was another dignitary present at the Press Conference in the national capital.

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Now, one question that arises in the minds of every Indian football fan is: what is FC Basel's goal and why did they choose to partner with a club in India?

The youth setup is extremely solidly built in Basel. Great local players have risen through their academy. Ivan Rakitić (currently with FC Barcelona), Yann Sommer (currently with Borussia Mönchengladbach), Granit Xhaka (currently with Arsenal), Breel Embolo (currently with Schalke), and Xherdan Shaqiri (currently with Liverpool) are some of the current world-class players who have their roots at Basel. Another player who has donned FC Basel colours and is currently a global superstar is Liverpool's Mohamed Salah.

Basel are a club with a 125-year-old history and they have been the Swiss national champions a whopping 20 times, 2nd only to Grasshopper Club Zürich - who have been the victors a record 26 times. Over 30 players have joined Bundesliga clubs from their youth ranks in the past 10 years. 

"For me it's the first time in India - coming from Switzerland - which has a population of 8 million - to the biggest democracy in the World. I think it is the best time to become friends. I believe the 'sleeping giant' of football has already woken up. India will soon play a dominant role in football," quipped FC Basel President Bernhard. 

India becomes the first Asian nation in which the club is investing. Bernhard also revealed that their decision to invest in India was because they wanted to set foot in a democratic country. In China, the youth academies are controlled by the Government. Collaborating with a club in China would not have aligned with FC Basel's vision. 

The Coimbatore-based Chennai City FC has agreed to sell 26% of the club's stake to FC Basel. However, neither Rohit nor Bernhard divulged the exact terms of the agreement when questioned about it. Rohit did not disclose the amount of the capital influx but confirmed that it is not 15 million euros - which was the rumored amount. 

What lies in store in terms of the partnership?

One of the first results of the partnership would be the setting up of a Youth Academy - that is the future. Assistance will also be provided by FC Basel to educate coaches.

"The potential we see in India is massive. I hope football continues to become more and more interesting. The right education is a must from an early age. It is a great chance for us and the results will start showing in four to six years. I like the philosophy of CCFC. If we have said yes, then the first thing is to deliver. First we need to invest in the club. Everyday is not sunny side up and we are determined to face the challenges which may come our way," explained Bernard.

R Krishnakumar, the co-owner of CCFC, revealed that the vision of CCFC has always been to promote local players. This partnership is expected to act as a catalyst in the process. Work will be initiated to roll out Soccer Schools across Tamil Nadu in Phase 1 of the developmental process. Setting up of a world-class Residential Youth Academy in the heart of Coimbatore is also on the cards on a priority basis. 

Kushal Das, General Secretary of AIFF, who was also present at the event, said:

"This kind of a partnership with a legacy club of European football is great for Indian football. This partnership has the correct vision and AIFF will cooperate with it in whatever form necessary."

Bottom line

Technical know-how and expertise, capital, talented management personnel - these are the three things one can expect FC Basel to provide CCFC with early on. An influx of Swiss players to India and vice versa is another possibility of the deal in the long run. 

Although The Blue Tigers faced a heartbreaking Round 1 exit during the Asian Cup, Indian fans can remain optimistic about Indian Football if such collaborations keep happening. India is a big country and it is important to keep in mind that setting up a seamless ecosystem will still take some time in the long run. A proper structuring is inevitable. 

There is a sense of optimism in Chennai City FC looking at their current I-League performances, and the influx of resources and knowledge from a club such as FC Basel can only bode well not just for them but for Indian football.

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