The City Football Group (CFG) have stepped into the Indian football industry, with them all set to acquire Indian Super League (ISL) side Mumbai City FC. The Indian club will join a host of clubs such as Manchester City FC, New York City FC, Melbourne City FC, Girona and many others under the same umbrella of the CFG.
This is not the first time that Indian football has attracted interest from the west. But this acquisition could prove to be the most effective one yet.
ATK – then named Atletico de Kolkata – was the first club in the ISL to be partly owned by a European giant when La Liga side Atletico Madrid partly owned stakes for three years. The Kolkata-based side did well to win two league titles but the partnership eventually fell off.
FC Pune City, when the ISL had started, had a partnership with Fiorentina with the Serie A club helping the Stallions on the technical side of affairs. However, the partnership eventually fell off within three years. Similarly, Delhi Dynamos had an association with Feyenoord which saw the club bring in some Dutch coaches and players. But once again, nothing fruitful came off the association and it eventually ended.
Earlier this year, German side Borussia Monchengladbach signed an MoU with the then I-League defending champions Minerva Punjab. This partnership was established with a vision of development at the grassroot level and the possibility of player-exchanges. However, there have been no developments on these fronts yet.
Just a week later, Switzerland club FC Basel and Chennai City FC announced a partnership, with the former buying a 26 per cent stake in the I-League side. It is a significant agreement and there has been some movement in terms of youth level coaching.
Other European giants have established 'Soccer Schools' in the country but that have more or less been marketing gimmicks. In fact, no major club has delved into the country with a long-term view or with genuine intent to help develop the sport.
In fact, many of the Soccer Schools have already shut down and those that remain have the partnership only in name.
This brings us to CFG’s acquisition of Mumbai City. They are known for being more professional, organised and process-oriented with the development of the youngsters. Manchester City have grown leaps and bounds under their ownership. They have won four Premier League titles and have established themselves as a powerhouse in England.
City have also nurtured some top talents such as Phil Foden, Brahim Diaz and Jadon Sancho who have established themselves as some of the biggest prospects in Europe.
New York City FC registered their best result under CFG when they finished second (overall) in the Major League Soccer in 2017. They have attracted some big names such as David Villa and Andrea Pirlo in the last three years.
Girona showed promise in their debut season in La Liga and were in contention for a European spot at one point before eventually settling for a mid-table finish. However, the departure of coach Pablo Machin and the fierce competition at the bottom of the table last season saw them relegated to the second division. However, their profile has been boosted and they are one of the favourites to gain promotion back into LaLiga this season.
All signs point to the fact that Mumbai City can benefit heavily from CFG’s acquisition. Increased activity at the grass-root level and better long-term planning can be expected.
This is the first time that a European giant is actually investing huge money in the country and India can hope to benefit from it, on evidence.