Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia believes Manchester City, who has acquired 65 percent stake in Indian Super League franchise Mumbai City FC is an indication that the world is beginning to notice Indian football on a bigger scale.
In a landmark deal for Indian football, City Football Group, which owns English Premier League champions Manchester City, announced they’d acquired a majority stake in MCFC, while existing shareholders Ranbir Kapoor and Bimal Parekh are keeping the remaining 35 percent.
With the I-League scheduled to start Saturday, Bhutia is confident of India beginning to make rapid strides.
“The Hero Indian Super League has returned after the international break and all the big boys are back to doing what they do best,” Bhutia wrote in Saturday’s Times of India.
“The biggest news nevertheless, lies off the field. Kudos to the administrators for pulling off one of the biggest developments in Indian football. The name Manchester always strikes a sentimental cord with fans worldwide and this time Manchester City have announced their arrival in India – showing interest in Indian football – taking up a 65 percent stake in Mumbai City FC.”
The deal will see Mumbai City FC benefit from the Group’s commercial and football know-how. At the same time delivering a new and exciting element to the CFG global commercial platform. CFG, the world’s leading private owner and operator of football clubs, which is best known for its ownership of English Premier League Champions, Manchester City FC, also comprises New York City in the US, Melbourne City FC in Australia, Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan, Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay, Girona FC in Spain and Sichuan Jiuniu FC in China.
“On the surface many a critic may try to shrug it off, mentioning it’s just about one club, and it won’t yield many positives. But remember, it’s just the first step. The biggest clubs in the world are actually taking notice of Indian football, and with it, the Indian market. If that isn’t positive, I am sorry I need to take a break. When did it happen earlier? Ever?,” Bhutia further added.
“One needs to understand that such developments don’t happen in a day. It’s not that on one certain morning someone wakes up and thinks about signing a deal. It is rather penned down after comprehensive research and analysis, gauging the sentiment, the tone – all backed by extensive data over a period of time.
“Let’s hope this partnership benefits not just the club, but Indian football overall. And I sincerely believe, it will. I am eagerly waiting to see the manner in which Manchester City invests their vast knowledge into academy development in Mumbai, and the hinterland — a model for which they have been widely appreciated. Such a development is also sure to have other clubs sit up, and take note.”
Besides, there is also a strong chance that football fans in India could be in for a treat next year as plans are underway to bring English Premier League giants Manchester United to Kolkata for a possible pre-season friendly with I-League heavyweights East Bengal.