Odisha is ready for football: Dr. Anil Sharma and Rohan Sharma

As one of the first eight clubs of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL), Delhi Dynamos FC have been an integral part of the Hero ISL setup for over five years. The 2019-20 season will, however, see the club assume a new identity and enter the competition as Odisha FC to script a brand new chapter. Delhi Soccer Private Limited, the entity managing the club, recently signed an MoU with the Government of Odisha to facilitate the move, and as a result, will now play their home matches at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar as the newly-formed Odisha FC. With the new venture on the horizon, Odisha FC owners Dr. Anil Sharma and Rohan Sharma are looking forward to a fruitful association with the state and fans of Odisha and to carry forward the values set up at Delhi Dynamos.

In a recent interview with indiansuperleague.com, Dr. Anil Sharma and Rohan Sharma revealed their thoughts on the relocation, while staying upbeat about the team’s prospects for the coming season. Here are the excerpts:

Q: Thoughts on the move from Delhi to Bhubaneswar?

Dr. Anil Sharma: I think Delhi, for us, is a great city. It is the capital city (of India). It’s a cosmopolitan city with a lot of people coming from all over India and elsewhere. We thought of moving to Odisha, which as a state has a great interest in sports. It was really exciting for us. We want a club that associates with the fans and from the few trips we have made so far, we feel Odisha is ready for football. So, we are very excited about this.

Q: On the team's preparations for Hero ISL 2019-20 season

Rohan Sharma: Last season was a little hard on us and we will hopefully break the duck. We have worked very hard on our team this year. Really uncovered every single stone in terms of foreign players, Indian players. We got a really good young squad and good foreigners, and I'm really excited for the season this year.

Q: Reasons behind retaining the core team instead of rebuilding?

Rohan Sharma: We like our coach (Josep Gombau) a lot and the good thing about our coach is that he believes in our project, even the move he was supportive of. He was like you know, 'Let’s start building a grassroots program, let’s make this our city' and I think I echo his statements completely. I think this should be a city where we could all grow something from it. The team is almost the same, most of the Indian players are the same, just the foreigners we have changed. We have kept our captain. Marcos Tebar is back, really excited to have him back in the squad again. (Francisco) Dorronsoro is coming back so we have two players from last season. It's like a family again.

Dr. Anil Sharma: And for us also it is important to start with the Indian youth and (carry forth) the focus which we've established. It is tough on us as a club. We were focused more on marquee players and bigger names and we have decided to make a shift and start investing in the youth. We knew it’s going to take us a little behind but together, with Aspire Academy, we have had a lot of discussions on how to build a good football club and that’s what we are trying to do.

Q: Players to look forward to from the team in the new Hero ISL season?

Rohan Sharma: I like our striker Aridane Santana. He is a really good player from Cultural Leonesa, (a club from) the third division of Spain and he is really hungry. Coach just texted me that ‘I'm very impressed with him’.

Dr. Anil Sharma: You know the interesting thing is that it’s going to be really challenging. We will have some good football in this Hero ISL season. I like how the clubs are maturing. Indian football is maturing and we, as owners, are starting to understand. So, we are really excited. I mean, it’s going to be a high-level sport. So, we are looking forward to that. It’s going to be really competitive.

Odisha FC begin their Hero ISL 2019-20 campaign with four successive away fixtures against Jamshedpur FC, NorthEast United FC, Mumbai City FC and the Kerala Blasters FC. Their debut in their new home is due for late November against two-time champions ATK.

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