Jose Barreto: ATK Mohun Bagan merger a great moment for club and fans
A new and historic chapter in Indian football began with Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) champions ATK FC and Hero I league champions Mohun Bagan FC formally merging to form ATK Mohun Bagan FC. The new club will use the same logo and colours as Mohun Bagan, and this is a matter of great pride for Jose Ramirez Barreto, who is the current head coach of the Reliance Football Young Champs (RFYC) and a Mohun Bagan legend.
Among the longest serving foreign players in Indian Football, Barreto spent 11 years at the Mohun Bagan over two stints with the club. A big match player, Barreto was key to Mohun Bagan's double National Football League titles in his first stint. Soon after the ATK Mohun Bagan merger, the Brazilian spoke with Anant Tyagi and shared his thoughts on the merger. Here are excerpts from their conversation:
Q: What does it mean for Mohun Bagan to come into the ISL after a long wait?
It has been a long story. Since 2014-15, all the supporters of Mohun Bagan have been dreaming to be part of it. Finally, it has become a reality. The dream has come true for the supporters. It is a great feeling as an ex-Mohun Bagan star and as a Mohun Bagan fan. I am sure all the fans share my excitement as well. It is a great step taken by the Mohun Bagan club. Two giants are coming together to help build a great team in the ISL. This is a great moment for the club and for the fans.
Q: The jersey and logo have been retained. Your thoughts.
Feeling relieved about the logo and the colours of the shirt are there. The logo and the colours are something that we fans are emotional about. We are happy with the decision of the management, the board of directors at ATK Mohun Bagan. I don't think supporters could go to the stadium and see Mohun Bagan with different colours. You can’t imagine a Mohun Bagan fan putting the green and maroon shirt away and calling any other colour the club shirt. It would be difficult for them.
Q: What does it mean for Indian football?
Mohun Bagan has come with a huge history. All these years, they have conquered a lot. And ATK, during their time as well, has been a club that has been successful. ATK has always fought and remained within the championship race. I think it’s a great combination. It is like two spirits coming together is what I feel. It’s going to be great having ATK and Mohun Bagan together. It’s going to make a huge difference. ATK now comes in with the whole crowd of Mohun Bagan behind them. And for Mohun Bagan, they have the spirit of ATK with them, a great combination.
Q: How will this help the ISL?
Mohun Bagan in the ISL, with ATK now, will call attention. It is a great move by the ISL too. I am excited, but not only in India, but all over the world, there are lots of Mohun Bagan supporters who will be as excited as me. They will be looking forward to seeing the first game of ATK Mohun Bagan. Of course, it is going to bring a lot to the ISL. It is going to create a different energy and to have both of these clubs together, is a huge asset for ISL.
Q: How big is this for the Mohun Bagan supporters?
For them, it’s like seeing a dream getting fulfilled. Initially, the dream was for Mohun Bagan to come in as a franchise in the ISL but now, I feel it is a good combination. Maybe, for Mohun Bagan to come into the ISL by themselves, could have been something new because the expectations would be sky high. The fast style in the ISL and the pace could have taken Mohun Bagan some time to adjust. But, ATK have already been in the ISL for the last six years.
Mohun Bagan joined in at the right moment with the right team. This combination has everything in itself to work out and be successful. We can go on about the change of name, which I feel is very nominal. One can say why not Mohun Bagan ATK but there are far more positives rather than looking at negatives if any. With time, supporters will get used to it.
Q: Message to the likes of David Williams and Roy Krishna on how to handle Mohun Bagan’s expectations….
Players like it. It is something that we don’t mind. We love to be adored. We like people to appreciate what we are doing. Players who are going to come into ATK Mohun Bagan this coming season will see something different. Yes, there will be people in the stands but there are going to be people who will worship you and you are going to be treated as a star.
The adulation among supporters in Kolkata, you can’t find it anywhere. Changing people’s lives is a reward for players. I think it is something we love. The coach, Mr. Habas and the technical staff, all are going to feel something different and I am sure the supporters will really make it special.
Q: What do you expect from ATK Mohun Bagan off the pitch?
You don’t have to worry about the galleries being filled in any Bagan game. The fans will be supporting ATK Mohun Bagan. In terms of player signings, again, not bothered because ATK has been doing great the last few years, Mohun Bagan is also a club that is always going for the best. My only request for ATK Mohun Bagan will be to invest as much as they can for grassroots and youth programs. That is where the state of Bengal really needs them. Maybe in the future, we can have a lot of talents coming from Bengal once again. Focus on youth development and set it as your priority to help Indian football.
Q: In your playing days, there was no corporatization of football clubs but now you are serving Indian football in a very different role with RFYC. How do you see the change?
I really dreamt of seeing a change. During my playing time, one day I wanted to see the improvement of football in this country. I am really proud and happy to see the corporate world join hands to develop the sport in this country. I really feel there is a lot of talent but unfortunately, owing to lack of finances, it’s not being pulled up. We must catch it. ISL has done well to bring in the corporates together. You have to utilize the resources and make use of it the right way.