The partnership between Odisha F.C. and Premier League club Watford FC has created a buzz in Indian football. This partnership is definitely ideal for a state like Odisha, which did not have a decent footballing structure up until the initiation of Odisha FC. The club has been a part of the ISL for two seasons now. Even though the results have not been in their favour, the team has shown a lot of promise.
Partnering with an esteemed club like Watford will help the Indian club improve its footballing structure right from the grassroots. The PL club has been trying to expand its reach in the Indian market for quite some time now. With this sensational move, they may be very close to finally pulling it off. At an official press conference, Watford FC’s Commercial Director Mr Paul O’Brien said:
“This is something really quite different and we love to get involved in new things that provide really different experiences for the club and our staff. Partnering with Odisha FC gives us a chance to get a real insight into football’s global appeal and affords us a great chance to share learnings with a similarly ambitious club."
What does this move mean for Odisha FC?
Watford have been one of the top-notch clubs in the Premier League. They are known for their lion-hearted resilience through the years. The club has produced some really exciting players like Troy Deeney, Ashley Young and Daniel James.
This move imminently means that Odisha FC players in the youth system will get a chance to train the Watford way. There have also been promises of certain loan moves being implemented between the two clubs. At the official press conference, Raj Athwal, Club President of Odisha FC stated that:
"We will be looking for our first team to potentially have a pre-season next season at Watford. We will also have several of our youth players who will get to train with Watford’s football academy teams. This will not only develop the aspects of their own game but will also help Odisha FC and Indian football as well. There are so many different facets that will be essential for us to progress."
The partnership could potentially target the rise of women's football in India
Women's football has not seen a perennial rise like the men's game. There are no big leagues like ISL, that give budding female footballers a chance to showcase their talents. With a team like Watford, which has a strong women's team coming in, development is expected on that front as well. Speaking of how the partnership will help benefit women's football, Raj Athwal said:
"Women’s football is actually the key. When I came to Odisha FC one of the key elements was there to take care of women’s football. That was another reason for joining with Watford FC. They have a professional set up for women’s football, it is still in the embryonic stages but there is definitely a commitment there. We have this opportunity now in India to grow women’s football especially in Odisha, we are committed to it. It’s not something that will happen overnight. We have to plan it correctly and execute it correctly."
Watford is known as a 'family club' because of its ethics and the way the club is run. If this deal works out the way it has promised, this will definitely be a big revolution in Indian football. Speaking about the partnership at an official press conference, Abhik Chatterjee, Head of Football Operations at Odisha FC said:
"For a football club, a lot of people will measure it in terms of where you finish on the table but for a lot of football people, it’s about the impact that you can make with football in your community, particular state, and the catchment area that you are belonging.
Players looking at Odisha FC can think that I can join this club and there is an opportunity to go to Watford and train there, and if I am good enough there is a pathway for me to make it to the very top level. All of what we are doing is with the best intentions in mind and it is actually to make an impact within India and within Odisha."
Odisha has been a great promoter of sports. The state confirmed that it will once again be extending a supporting hand to the hockey team in India.
Fans and delegates across the state were elated to learn that Odisha F.C. had partnered with a big club like Watford. They have already granted their support to this partnership and have wished the team the best for the future. Speaking about the support the club received from the government of Odisha for this partnership, Abhik Chatterjee said:
"A big thank you to the Government of Odisha who have been extremely supportive throughout our association with them. They want the Club to excel and the community in Odisha to grow and become a force to reckon with. They are extremely passionate about this partnership and the development of women’s football as well."