Spanish giants Atletico Madrid cemented their arrival in Indian football with the announcement of the name of their Indian Super League franchise — Atletico Kolkata, yesterday. In an interview with mid-day, owner and chief executive of the Spanish club, Miguel Angel Gil Marin, speaks about his interest behind investing in India, the possibility of Atletico winning the La Liga as well as the Champions League, and above all, the rivalry between the other big club back home — Real Madrid.
Q. What's behind Atletico's sudden interest in India and how did idea of investing in an Indian football team come about?
A. It's not a sudden idea. Football in India is growing and so are the fans. Being here in India is part of our international development. We already have a presence in America and China, and now for us being in India is a must. This is something that was in the pipeline for some time and with this project we finalised our idea.
Sourav Ganguly with the owner & CEO of Atletico Madrid, Miguel Angel Marin unveils the name of the Kolkata franchise of the Indian Super League (ISL) in Kolkata yesterday. Pic/AFP
Q. How did your association with former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly come about?
A. Atletico is a legendary team and we like to partner with legends. Ganguly is a cricket legend and we want to be a part of this new endeavour by creating a legendary Indian team through our own expertise.
Q. But surely you realise that football is not as popular as cricket in India?
A. Passion for football is in our DNA and passion for football is booming in India. So we thought, why not merge both?
Q. It's turning out to be a fantastic season for Atletico given you can possibly win the La Liga and Champions League. What do you attribute this success to?
A. Actually this is a result of a very concrete strategy for the past few years that made us one of the most successful teams worldwide if we compare the investment versus the performance. Passion, I believe, in what we do is the key to all our results.
Q. Atletico has always played football that matches Real Madrid but it is yet perceived as the eternal 'bridesmaid' to them. Why so?
A. Each team has to build on their own assets. Real Madrid represents economic power. Barcelona represents Catalonian heritage. And we have the power, passion and the strength to face challenges with a never-give-up spirit. We have our own identity and we never compare ourselves to anyone. We have our own values and a compelling story to tell. We really believe that life is much more than power and money.
Q. There is talk that Diego Costa may quit Atletico for Chelsea next season? Will you let your star player leave so easily?
A. We hope to retain Diego. He has made a great contribution to the club and the fans love him. We hope to not sell our main players, but as we always say, if a player wants to leave a club, no matter how much we want to keep him, he will leave.