Hyderabad, NFAPost: Mohun Bagan, one of the iconic clubs of Kolkata, has been instrumental in elevating Indian football scene for decades. The advent of the Indian Super League (ISL) added another feather to Kolkata’s football cap with the ATK team further heightening Kolkata’s football scene.
In January this year, the two clubs announced a merger to form a new entity. The new club – ATK Mohun Bagan – will play in the Calcutta Football League (CFL), the ISL and also in the group stages of the AFC Cup in 2021, as Mohun Bagan were I-League champions in 2019-20 season.
The club’s board members are ATK co-owner Utsav Parekh, Mohun Bagan duo of Srinjoy Bose and Debashish Dutta, Gautam Ray, Sanjeev Mehra along with Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) President Sourav Ganguly and Sanjeev Goenka.
Giving importance to legacy, the club has retained the old logo of Mohun Bagan, including the colour green, and added ATK to its logo to form a new one.
Nita Ambani, the founder & chairperson of Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL), which runs the ISL, welcomed the new club into the ISL fold. “We are delighted on the merger of ATK and Mohun Bagan, the two powerhouses of Indian football. I whole-heartedly welcome Mohun Bagan, one of India’s oldest and most renowned club, to the Indian Super League and congratulate Sanjiv Goenka for embracing the I-League champions with open arms,” said FSDL founder and chairperson Nita Ambani said.
The FSDL founder and chairperson added that the combined power of ATK and MB will further enable India to establish its stronghold in AFC competitions. Sanjiv Goenka, the Principal Owner of ATK Mohun Bagan shared his thoughts on the new club, the merger, the ISL and more.
What are your initial thoughts? Sanjiv Goenka: To my mind, it is the recognition of the emotion, the passion, the legacy of Mohun Bagan. We have gone with the Maroon and Green jersey. We have gone with the existing logo and the name of the club will be ATK Mohun Bagan. When I grew up, Green and Maroon were very much part of my being. A few months ago, I happened to go to the Salt Lake Stadium to watch the East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan Kolkata Derby. And on that day, it was very clear in my mind that the passion that the fans share for green and maroon is the same that I have. And that was the day, at least in my mind that the decision was made. I came and shared it with my team.
Was there any doubt in your mind?
Sanjiv Goenka: In my mind, there was never any debate. But, I think there was a question of the whole ATK team who are equally passionate about red and white, equally passionate about the ATK logo and all the stakeholders there. So, it was a process that we had to undergo and we wanted to build a consensus around this.
July 29 is Mohun Bagan Day. How important is it for you and what are your plans going forward?
Well, 29th July this year will be far more important than it has ever been for sure. I have a diary that I maintain and 29th July has been put into that. It’s an important day and I look forward to it.
Will ATKMB play only in the ISL or tournaments like the CFL as well?
Sanjiv Goenka: What is very clear is that we cannot play in the ISL and the I-League both. So we will play in the ISL. But, we should be playing in all other leagues as well. And I do not want to over a period of time confine it to local leagues or national leagues only. I think we have to build ourselves, our competencies, our strengths, and capabilities to an extent where we can participate in international competitions. And my target is the AFC Champions League. We have to prepare for that and at some stage, we have to play in it.
Thoughts about using the Mohun Bagan facilities…
Sanjiv Goenka: If I can, I would like to upgrade the facilities at the Mohun Bagan ground. It is part of the city’s history. As we have grown up, each one of us has seen that it is iconic. But, it needs up-gradation, modernization, and needs to be reconstructed in a manner that is different. And, if I can I would definitely like to upgrade the facilities such that, to begin with, we can have ISL games there. But over a period of time, maybe have AFC games there as well and really build it into a world-class facility.
Thoughts about the extreme love from fans, you win they’ll love you, you lose, they’ll throw stuff at you?
Sanjiv Goenka: That is part of the legacy, part of the passion. It is a part of the sentiment of the Mohun Bagan fan towards the Mohun Bagan club. And, there is no getting away from that. In a sport, you win some, you lose some. But, as long as we keep winning the relevant ones, and winning enough and the ratio of wins is higher than the losses, I think we are okay. Yes, disappointment will be huge as excitement and happiness will be big when you win. That is the way sport is.
A word for the Mohun Bagan fans spread around the world…
Sanjiv Goenka: To me, green and maroon are my colours. Green and maroon it is. The logo remains the same, ATK Mohun Bagan is the new name of the club. To each fan, all I can say is that you are important, your emotions are important, and above all, your blessings are important. I am sensitive to each one of this and I will try my best to live up to your expectations.
What is your message for both sets of ATK and Mohun Bagan fans…
Sanjiv Goenka: To the ATK fans, thank you so much for your overwhelming support over the last six years. And thanks to your support, we have been able to bring three out of the six cups back home. To the Mohun Bagan and the ATK Mohun Bagan fans, believe in us. We want to win, we want to excel and we will. And we will make you proud of the club, as proud as you have ever been.