ISL 2017: Why Delhi Dynamos is trying to bring Indian Arrows back in Indian football?

ISL 2017: Why Delhi Dynamos is trying to bring Indian Arrows back in Indian football?

Tathagata Mukherjeee, the new CTO of Delhi Dynamos. | Image: Twitter

Tathagata Mukherjeee, the new CTO of Delhi Dynamos. | Image: Twitter

The 4th season of the Hero Indian Super League will be lot different compare to the previous editions of the cash rich league of Indian football. Unlike the previous editions, it would be a 10-team affair this time with the length of the event is much longer compare to the previous seasons. The thirst for the title has become stronger as well for Delhi Dynamos. Despite some flash of brilliance, they failed to clinch the title in all three editions. Thus, they have come up with new vigor to chase their dream this season. They have already appointed former Director of Indian National Team and the man who was an integral part of AIFF’s famous Indian Arrows project. Tathagata Mukherjee as their new Chief Technical Officer. In an exclusive interaction with football correspondent Suman Chakravorty, Tathagata revealed all the plans and dreams he has to bring Dynamos on the lights of glories. He also expressed his determination to revive the Indian Arrows Model at Delhi Dynamos, which provided Indian football the likes of Jeje, Pritam Kotal, Raju Gaikwad, Milan Singh, Holicharan Narzery, who are now carrying the torch of Indian football. Here goes the conversation:

XT: You had been the pioneer of Indian football, who got an overwhelming success in the Indian Arrows project to give Indian football the present stars like Jeje, Pritam Kotal, Raju Gaikwad, Milan Singh, Holicharan Narzery and a lot many. How tough will be to implement your plans at the cricket-crazy city of Delhi?

Tathagata: To an extent it is correct. Because the popularity of cricket is really high here. Indian cricket has got a lot of stars as well from here. But, we cannot say that the city hasn’t provided any football stars. Sunil Chhetri and Robin Singh are the prime examples of that in the last ten years. There are some talents which we need to scout. Secondly, as this one is a metro city, it has a migrated population. So, there are Bongs, Punjabis, South Indians, Goans, NorthEast kids who can definitely play the game. The concept of Indian Arrows was to compete for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. We had six years of investment in that project. The project started with the U13 kids. Many of the players became 19 years old in 2010. So, initiated the plan to hold them together with competitive football for the next five years by forming a team who would play in the I-League to give them the opportunity to compete with the foreigners. So that, we could have had a core team 10 to 12 players ahead of the 2018 qualifiers. The plan was to be there in the top ten in the AFC rankings. If you see these days, you will get more than 50% of the Indian National Team players are from Indian Arrows project, and they are very close to our initial dream of being there in the bracket of top 10 Asian teams. The same project I want to replicate in Delhi Dynamos. We want to promote a bunch of new young talents who can help Dynamos as well as the national team in future.

XT: How are you planning to give the new talents the competitive playing experience? Will they play in the I-League as well?

Tathagata: I didn’t see much of the serious youth development process in the last few seasons among the ISL franchises. But it’s good that it has been happening now. We already had our trials for this season. Pratham (Basu, Manager) was telling me that almost 1400 players came in for the trials. So, the enthusiasm is definitely there. Our focus is to build an young squad with a good reserve team to continue the supply line.

XT: You are the only franchise, who didn’t retain a single player for the forthcoming season. Any special reason behind it?

Tathagata: We and Bengaluru FC wanted to have an open market to choose players from the draft. Our focus would be to build a young squad from the draft and then there would be the reserve team which we are forming through the trials and scouting process. The reserve team would be like the Indian Arrows team which we started. But we need some time to set the tone. The AIFF is also starting the Corporate League where these reserve teams will play. There would be at least three games a month, so the players will get at least 30 games a year, which would be really good for them. We have to produce national team players. We have to play AFC Cup to do so. So we are planning accordingly.

XT: What would be the plans for the draft?

Tathagata: There would be 6+5 system in the ISL, which means we have to have 6 good Indian outfield players. BFC retained two players because Sunil and Udanta will give them the luxury of having the equivalence of 1.5 foreigners, which we didn’t have. Our Indian goalkeepers were also weak. Because of the retention, BFC and even KBFC can afford to have a foreign goalkeeper, which we didn’t have. So, there are a lot of permutations and combinations which are going in our thoughts. With every due respect to Souvik and Anas, I want to say that, now I have a buffet of Indian national team players in the draft from where I can build my squad.

XT: Why did you release two prize weapons like Malouda and Marcelinho and allowed them to be linked with FC Pune City?

Tathagata: We didn’t want to release actually. There is an element of luck in the draft and we want to see how it goes. The moment we will select our Indian players, we will select the pool of foreign players at a rapid pace. Because then we’ll have the notion about our foreign requirement.

XT: I heard that you are linked with Argentine U23 National team forward Mauro Ortiz. How much truth is involved in it?

Tathagata: I will deny though (Laughs). But yes, we have already started to analyze the foreigners we want to sign. We have multiple options. That is all what I can say now.

XT: How big an advantage is that to have Pratham Basu with you in the youth development, as you two were the integral parts of that Indian Arrows project?

Tathagata: Well it is really important for the combination. I would have been happier of I would have had the whole team with Srinivas Murthy and Mandar Tamhane as well. With Pratham, what all I can say is that I knew the first generation of Arrows. Pratham knows the next generations of the Indian footballers. So, it is indeed a great combination.

XT: Will this be a contest between the friends this time, with Mandar at BFC?

Tathagata: Well, Mandar is doing an exceptional job with BFC and I have huge respect for him for that. But yes, we have to play against them and I’m accepting this challenge (Laughs).

XT: Dynamos don’t have a dedicated fan base as of now as the stands usually remain more or less empty. The other teams too are ahead in terms of the promotional aspects. The media too strive to get the news from the franchise. Do you have any plans for that?

Tathagata: Yes, that has been a concern for sure. Though the JN Stadium is huge and that is why even a crowd of 20,000 seems relatively small. Though we had concerns about the issues which you raised, but Ashish Shah has now joined us as the CEO from Chennaiyin FC and he is trying to solve the problems. With the experience he has, I believe we now have a better future ahead.

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