Northeast India has always been the hub of Indian football when it comes to producing players and maintaining the supply chain for Indian footballers. Clubs from this region haven't had much success domestically though, barring Aizawl FC's historic I-League triumph.
When the Indian Super League (ISL) began in 2014, a lot of hype was created for the Guwahati-based franchise which was representing the entire region of Northeast India. Filmstar John Abraham bought majority shares in the Guwahati franchise which was named NorthEast United FC.
He was not alone in acquiring the franchise though as the consortium that bid for the franchise included then I-League club Shillong Lajong and their owner Larsingh Ming Sawyan. It also had Guwahati-based businessman Sanjiv Narain.
Off-field issues began for NorthEast United even before the ISL kicked off
The initial bidding partners didn't stay the same way. Sanjiv Narain walked out before the ISL even started, citing several issues which included even naming of the franchise.
Shillong Lajong exited from the partnership entirely by the end of Season 2. The reason for Lajong's exit echoed concerns regarding the holistic development of football in the region.
With two of the initial partners of film star John Abraham leaving the club, it is now owned by John and his company JA Entertainment. They also have Jaya Balan, a perfume businessman as their partner and co-owner.
John's wife, Priya Runchal is the executive director of the club and it is known that she does take the final call on a lot of decisions. Jaya Balan oversees most of the day-to-day activities of the club.
Bollywood star John Abraham's love for football isn't a secret. It is widespread news that John is a football freak, and it is this love for the game that prompted him to buy an ISL team. While there have been rumors about NorthEast United struggling financially, the team has managed to stay afloat and make steady progress.
It must be said that even without his initial partners on his side, John Abraham, Priya Runchal and Jaya Balan have managed to guide NorthEast United to a playoff spot. Smart spending has been a trademark of NorthEast United which has helped them survive through the season and also not change their majority shareholder.Published 20 Nov 2020, 22:13 IST