Vita Dani: Family-like atmosphere the reason behind Chennaiyin's success
In its five years of existence, Chennaiyin FC have become synonymous to success in Indian football. Having won the coveted Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) twice - in 2015 and then again in 2017-18 - Chennaiyin are currently the joint-most successful team in India's premier footballing competition alongside ATK and needless to say, the passion and commitment of the team's co-owners - Vita Dani, Abhishek Bachchan and MS Dhoni - have had a huge role to play in the surge.
In a recent interview with indiansuperleague.com, Vita Dani deconstructed the secret behind Chennaiyin's success so far and addressed various other aspects. Here are the excerpts:
Q. Two-time Hero ISL Champions, to what would you attribute Chennaiyin FC’s success?
We have had two great head coaches in Marco Materazzi and John Gregory and some exceptional domestic and foreign players. They are the ones who made it possible for us to win the title twice and have numerous good memories over the five seasons. At the same time as co-owner along with my partners Abhishek Bachchan and MS Dhoni, we have tried to create and maintain a family atmosphere at the club both on and off the field. The togetherness that we have has brought us success in the past and we strive to achieve that in the future as well.
Q. Chennaiyin have strong fan groups who have stood by the club through ups and downs, how important are they to the culture of your club?
A football club is nothing without its fans. So, we are very proud of our fanbase for their continued unconditional support and with every passing season, it is only growing. Tamil Nadu is one of the fastest growing markets in terms of following football in India and that is a very encouraging sign for everybody associated with Chennaiyin FC. We hope to continue to make them proud and enhance the growing fan culture.
Q. What has the Hero ISL and Chennaiyin FC brought to the city of Chennai?
The Hero ISL as a whole has created an ecosystem for the sport of football nationwide and we at Chennaiyin FC have tried to contribute towards that in Chennai and Tamil Nadu. The region always had great interest in football and plenty of talent and in the last five years, that interest has enhanced with more and more young kids playing the sport. I am sure each aspiring footballer in Tamil Nadu wants to follow in the footsteps of Dhanpal Ganesh.
Q. A disappointing 2018-19 season. Have you introspected and identified the problems?
In any sport, like life, there will be ups and downs. 2018-19 didn’t go the way we wanted to but the one positive of any sport which keeps us sports lovers always engaged is that there is always the next season to look forward to. We have full faith in John and his staff and the players to bounce back in the coming season.
Q. Where do you see CFC in the next 5 years?
We aim to be competitive and keep improving both on and off the field in every aspect. Obviously, we want to add to our trophy cabinet and return to AFC competition in the near future but at the same time we want to keep progressing as a club, which we believe we have since our inception in 2014.
Q. How important is it for the clubs to bring through young Indian players like Anirudh Thapa and Jerry Lalrinzuala?
We are very proud of the fact that we have been able to bring through talents like Jerry and Anirudh from within and we are fully aware that we have to continue to work hard to produce more such talents for club and country. Every Hero ISL club is in fact committed towards youth development and it is good to see healthy competition among clubs across all age groups now.
With the 2019-20 season just on the horizon, much will be expected of Chennaiyin. If the side’s track record of bouncing back from disappointing seasons is anything to go by, fans can very well look forward to a special season and Vita Dani, like always, will be cheering the team on from the stands.