“Our ambition is to invest and grow the game in India,” says Roel de Vries, COO, City Football Group
Indian football’s developmental push is one of the key areas of focus for City Football Group in the country which shall be boosted by their partnerships here, according to their COO Roel de Vries, who was present at the Mumbai Football Arena for the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) match between Mumbai City FC and Bengaluru FC last week. De Vries experienced and lauded the thunderous atmosphere at the stadium during the Islanders' 4-0 win over the Blues.
“I love being in India. I’ve been here a few times in a previous capacity, but for the first time in my role with City Football Group, and the first time for Mumbai City as well today,” said de Vries on the sidelines of Mumbai City FC’s game. “Spent today going through what we see as the future for football in India - a very, very positive day, and very excited to see the atmosphere in the stadium. Now, I can see the growth for real.”
Over the past years, Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) has undertaken multiple initiatives to grow the overall football ecosystem in India, including global technical partnerships and with the evolution of the Hero ISL, as well as grassroots programs like The Reliance Foundation Young Champs combined with other grassroots development initiative across the country, football is witnessing an upward trajectory. The entire football proposition in India is improving, making it a lucrative property for global involvement. The Premier League is already involved in these efforts through their partnership with FSDL, and the City Football Group is now part of a growing list.
In 2019, City Football Group announced the acquisition of a majority stake which was seen as a deal where Mumbai City FC would benefit from the Group’s commercial and football know-how, whilst at the same time delivering a new and exciting element to the CFG global commercial platform.
De Vries said that City Football Group would continue to push strongly with Mumbai City’s development in particular, but also invest in the larger development of Indian football through that. Their focus is in line with that of the Hero ISL and FSDL’s objectives - to create a fast-paced, high-quality league full of well-matched teams that will enhance the fan experience.
“We want to keep growing the team - be better and better, but we also want to play a big role in the promotion of football in India. We believe there is a lot of growth potential in India, and the more we put games like this on display, the better we play, the better our opponents play, and I think the better we will get,” he said.
De Vries added, “What you will see from us is a lot of investment in football and in players and coaches, and you can see it on the pitch today. There are players from all nationalities and coaches from other clubs within the group. Our ambition really is to invest in the game, make it better - make it better for the fans, and grow the game in India. That’s what we’re here for.”
The Hero ISL this season has already produced 20 Indian debutants under the age of 25, as a weekend centric schedule has provided coaches the opportunity to tap into their Indian talent. Mumbai City FC are currently the leading goal-scorers in the ISL season, and 10 of the 18 goals they have scored have come from Indian players.