After the top flight league season in Indian football concludes, the coverage of the Media of Indian football would take a thorough dip. But for some keen followers of the game in this part of the World, the real season would only start then. After the conclusion of I-League and ISL, three important tournaments will kick-off, all running almost simultaneously. One is of course the Super Cup which is the new brainchild of AIFF, another is the heritages Santosh Trophy which in spite of losing it’s yesteryears’ glamour has not yet lost it’s pride. And last but not the least is the 2nd Division I-League, the cradle of some future footballing stars and also the stepping-stone for something better for many hard-working officials and clubs from remote places of India.
In the first paragraph we have not written a single word regarding the topic we are offering our column today. Football in Madhya Pranesh has eternally suffered from lack of attention, both from the associations and also from the Media outside of the state. But a club from Bhopal has been doing a work for past few years which attracted us to this city not so famous for football. The club we are talking about is Madhya Bharat Sports Club.
The institution from Bhopal first came into attention when news of it tying up with Scottish giants Celtic arrived. Since then much has not been talked about them but the academy based club has kept their process of gradual development intact silently and is now residing one step away from the top flight of Indian football!
Ahead of them taking part in I-League 2nd Division, TalkSports 24X7 decided to take a look into the inside world of Madhya Bharat Sports Club and we caught up with Rishish Dubey, the CEO of the club.
○TS 24X7: Rishish, first of all congratulations to you and Madhya Bharat Sports Club for gaining entry in I-League 2nd Division. Let us know how you are looking forward to this campaign?
●Rishish: Thank you. Before we move to any further questions let me clear the objective we have. Our focus is youth development and grassroots. We were not expecting to play 2nd Division I-League when we began as we were looking only one step at a time. With our academy players developing and watching U-15s and U-18s doing well against senior teams we had the belief that these boys deserve a chance. For current season which is onto us now, we are like our ideology looking at it one match at a time. Football is a process. A process of continued development of players. Winning and losing will change with the time. We are hoping to surprise few people. I am very confident that Madhya Bharat Sports Club’s style of play and performance will impress people. We want to play football in this season which encourages attraction and people come to play.
○TS 24X7: MBSC is an academy based club. How the academy in tie-up with Scottish giants Celtic is going and what are your future plans regarding the academy and also the partnership with Celtic?
●Rishish: Yes we are an academy based club. Our focus is to create a robust academy system and grow from bottom of the pyramid. We believe young players are the future of the country. The partnership with Celtic FC is great for us in terms of technical expertise they bring. There is weekly call on how we work and things they do. The best thing is along with the guidelines there is freedom to adapt to methods which suit our country and our players. The future plans for the academy to have strong base at the bottom with more U13 players coming up. There is a reluctance in people to send their young kids away from home. Our academy is a bit a merger of modern methods and older values, therefore restricted environment with a strong focus on academics along with football. We call our players STUDENT-ATHLETE. As you can see student first and athlete next. In future we are working on building one state of art facility and hope to move in that by 2019.
○TS 24X7: Madhya Pradesh is not a state which is well known for it’s football fanaticism. How difficult it is to run a football club in such a place where football is not probably in the scheme of thought of most of the kids and their guardians? Similarly from another aspect, it being a prominent sporting institution in Bhopal, you have the advantage of utilising the talent of these large catchment area of MP and the adjacent states. Let enlighten us about both the challenges and the responsibilities.
●Rishish: Although it’s not Bengal or Goa, I don’t believe that Madhya Pradesh is not a state which has football fans in this age. Yes, it is unheard of. Having brought up here I think it is full of talent and it needed a platform. MPFA is trying to do its best. There are around 25-30 All India Tournaments that are played in the state. And in the time of TV broadcasting and Internet obviously younger kids are taking to football. As far as guardians are concerned it is worry all across our country which is not a sport playing nation yet. Parents need to understand that they give their kids 12 years of school education, plus three years of college for becoming a graduate whereas in sports not just football, they want very quick results. We have a responsibility of running professionally and fight against negative elements and old stereotypes which surround football. We aim to give a platform to talent from the state. Carrying on from that I am happy to say we have 9 players from Madhya Pradesh in our Second Division Squad.
○TS 24X7: Although football is apparently the focus of Madhya Bharat Sports Club, what other sports teams and Academies are you having or planning?
●Rishish: Football is our focus at the moment. My personal ambition and dream has been to be able to hopefully have nurtured a player who plays world cup for the country and a player who gets a medal for India in Olympics. With this thought we plan to have few olympic sports like badminton, tennis, hockey, swimming, boxing, archery along with football down the years.
○TS 24X7: Coming back to the upcoming I-League 2nd Division campaign, what’s your take on the group you are in? It is having some very strong names. What’s your aim from this campaign?
●Rishish: We are in a beautiful group. AIFF has done awfully well in trying to have closer groups and distribution of ISL teams. The names there are big names. I think the teams are also good. It will be a great challenge for our players to compete against these teams. We believe with the work of our Head Coach Jose Hevia, we will be able to change people’s opinions about football in Madhya Pradesh. The objective is to play such a game that people from MP love it and obviously winning is always an objective in sport.
○TS 24X7: Looking at the schedule of groupings of the 2nd Division I-League, it’s evident that your footballers will have to go through a very hectic travel schedule. Do you think that the groupings or the schedule could be done a bit more practically?
●Rishish: Yes, there is a lot of travel. That is a part of sport, isn’t it ? In fact for me that is a part of sport which I have loved since childhood. Making friends who end for lifetime in those trips. Fighting the odds and giving your best. That’s all the sports are all about. India is a big country so anyways we have to travel. I think AIFF has done well in making the groups. Considering the spread of ISL teams which are there only for preliminary round, and the travel. It’s the best they could do. I think they are criticized more often but this time in grouping they should be appreciated.
○TS 24X7: I-League today is officially the top flight league in India, but as it’s evident that a merger or unification of leagues is on the cards in the upcoming years, and if it happens then financial backing would be something without which it would be seemingly tough to be a part of top flight football in India, only based on performance. As the CEO of a budding Sports Club, football being the focus of which, do you feel confident about overcoming such challenges or would you more focus on the academy?
●Rishish: I am eternal optimist and romanticist. I believe that things only are going to improve. Darwin said that, in the the theory of evolution. In spite of all the challenges including financial and cultural in the region we are able to try and do something like Madhya Bharat Sports Club. We are focused on youth in all the sports and in terms of football as well. Therefore, we should be able to find a way to be sustainable. If I were a CEO of any other company, then also, I have to be ready for changes in market, political environment an adapt to new strategies. So will do the same. We are looking for a gradual but more robust growth pattern for our club and football in Central India. I am confident gradual growth will produce top players from the region.
○TS 24X7: Anything you would like to say to the football loving people or the sports lovers as a whole on behalf of Madhya Bharat SC?
●Rishish: I just want to appeal to people that footballers and those who run football clubs are people. Like everyone else they are affected by the system in the country. For example train tickets is as hard to get for clubs as for normal people. I believe there is sometimes unfair criticism of even the biggest clubs. With solidarity amongst each other we can make India a sport playing nation.
○TS 24X7: One final question. In 10 years from now, where and how do you want to see Madhya Bharat Sports Club?
●Rishish: In less than ten years we dream to play the top league in the country. More over we want to do it by having a decent bunch of academy players. Other than football we dream to nurture players in other sports to be going to become Olympics medalists. More importantly making matured and good citizens out of young kids who enter the academy at a very tender age.
How the results would unfold, nobody knows. With a youthful squad they are expected to leave an impression on the competition but if Madhya Bharat makes the cut to the top then it would be considered as a surprise. But it’s not the result which really matters to the club or it’s players or the officials. The motive of setting-up and enriching an academy to the utmost within financial limitations and then getting the ticket for jostling shoulders with a bunch of self-made footballers is a dream project for many budding club officials of the country. If India has to enlarge as a footballing nation then more clubs with models like Madhya Bharat needs come up at different places and more importantly needs to be looked after. Future will tell what would happen to this Bhopal club, but for the time being their is no shortage of hunger in their bellies and dreams in their eyes.