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ISL 2017: Abhishek Bachchan - Chennaiyin FC committed to developing youth players

8:57 AM MYT 07/11/2017
Abhishek Bachchan Chennaiyin FC ISL
The co-owner of the 2015 Indian Super League champions feels the team is working towards being self-sustainable...

Chennaiyin FC are only one of two clubs to have won the Indian Super League (ISL) so far but for co-owner Abhishek Bachchan, the South Indian club's commitment to young talents is what makes him proud. 

Speaking to Goal ahead of the fourth season of the IMG-Reliance owned league, the Bollywood star highlighted why the franchise is investing heavily in its youth and reserve teams.  

"We have always maintained at Chennaiyin FC that a club is only going to be successful and sustainable by producing their own talents," Abhishek elaborated. "Even in our short history Chennaiyin FC has always encouraged and given a chance to younger players to feature in the senior squad.

"Playing in the youth leagues and starting the reserve team will give our younger players much needed gametime at a competitive level." 

In fact, last year's ISL Emerging Player of the Year award was won by Chennaiyin's Jerry Lalrinzuala - the 19-year-old left-back who was a regular starter in the third edition of the league. 

"Vita (Dani) and I would obviously love to see Chennaiyin FC become the best club in the country on and off the field," Abhishek shares his vision for the club, of which Vita Dani, Chairperson of 11Even Sports, is also a co-owner.

"We want Chennaiyin FC to be a club which is known for winning and yet promote fair play and a club which has given birth to some of the most talented young players in the country. If we manage to achieve these goals, I believe we would be a very successful club." 

The ISL is no longer an eight-team affair with the introduction of Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC but the major change to the league is the opportunity for the victors to represent India in the AFC Cup - the second-tier continental competition. 

Abhishek is overjoyed at this development and feels that the various stakeholders have done well to keep faith in the ISL. "Yes, that was one of the key targets (AFC recognition). I am glad that we have reached where we have.

"It was a lot of hard work but thankfully all the franchises and the key stakeholders in the ISL had belief in what we were going to do." 

The Dhoom star also felt that the league will soon become self-sustainable and the time is not far before the clubs break even financially. 

"I do feel football, like all the other successful leagues in the country, can and will be a sustainable product. But each league and sport is different and all have their own individual growth potential and graphs. We, at Chennaiyin FC, are working hard to ensure that the club can be self-sustaining and profitable at the earliest."

One of the most-debated topics going into the new season was the potential inclusion of I-League giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in the ISL. Though the move never materialised, Abhishek wants two of the biggest clubs in the country to join the ISL bandwagon. 

"Yes. Any Indian football fan would love to see two of the oldest clubs of the country and Asia in the ISL," he asserted. 

Abhishek's father Amitabh Bachchan is known to be a connoisseur of football and has earlier professed his liking towards Mohun Bagan. However, Abhishek vouched for his father's loyalty towards his own team as the conversation took a lighter route. 

"As far as my father is concerned, I can say with great pride that he is a big Chennaiyin FC fan."