Odisha FC and Watford FC full of optimism after historic partnership
Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) outfit Odisha FC are looking to their three-year historic International Club Partnership with Premier League club Watford FC to help them produce top-notch footballers in the state who can go on to serve the national team later.
Abhik Chatterjee, Head of Football Operations at Odisha FC, spoke to Indian journalists in a virtual press conference on Wednesday evening and set the record straight as to what the Indian club wants from the partnership with Watford FC that came into force earlier in the day after an agreement between both the parties.
“A big thank you to Watford. I think they really understood what we wanted to do with respect to Indian football. There is a real synergy there and the intentions are very pure. The roots, in essence, are based in our want to do better for the football community in India and also give Watford an opportunity to feel what India is all about, understand the football landscape here and for both clubs to engage in something that can be very, very special in the future,” he said.
Richard Walker, Head of Communications & Media Relations at Watford FC, was not behind in expressing his club’s expectations from the tie-up and spoke in an impassioned way. “Watford is a very small place on this planet. Not one of the biggest clubs by stadium size or following in the Premier League. But we are known as an original family club for a reason,” he said.
“We have got a heritage and a history. We are very much based in the local community, serving our local community which we have done throughout the Covid pandemic. Make no mistake, we are looking to widen our global family. Today we are welcoming Odisha FC into that just that they are welcoming us into their family. We will look forward to making more of our players and other key staff accessible to Indian journalists and reporters throughout the season ahead,” he added.
It’s no secret that the Odisha government has been behind the revival of Indian field hockey in recent years. The team won bronze in the Tokyo Olympics last month, their first medal in the hallowed Games since the 1980 edition. Chatterjee thanked the local government and hoped their support would help Odisha FC taste similar success in the Hero ISL in the near future.
Odisha FC had brought up the rear last season with an 11th-place finish with just two wins in 20 games. In the previous season – their first in India’s premier football league – they had finished sixth on the points table in what was a 10-team competition.
“A big thank you to the government of Odisha. They have been very supportive throughout our association with them. There is an example for all of us to see, like how they have supported the Indian hockey team that has brought us laurels at the Olympics. They share the same passion for us, our team. Their want is the same for the club to excel and for the community of Odisha to grow and become a force to reckon with, not only within India but also produce footballers that can make their mark at the national stage. They are extremely passionate about this partnership,” Chatterjee said.
“…Also, a big thank you to the [Hero] Indian Super League. They have also been very supportive; they have chipped in with their suggestions [now and then]. They held out hand through the final stages of this, to ensure the partnership is presented to you in its current form,” he went on to add.
Odisha FC Club President Raj Athwal, meanwhile, counted the things that could attest to the success of the partnership in the time to come. “With the pandemic, we will try work around it. But how you measure it… for us it would be developing our players, it would be sharing best practice. Let’s not forget Watford is a Premier League club, right across the board, from their analysis, from their nutrition, from their diets. Commercially, they are well versed in these areas. So, this would be a huge support for us. I think over time we will be able to sit down and see how far we have developed as a team,” he said.
Apart from Chatterjee, Walker and Athwal, Commercial Director Watford FC Paul O’Brien and Rohan Shukla, Watford FC International Marketing Officer – India, were also present at the event and addressed the media.