The coming together of ATK and Mohun Bagan will not only help Indian football stride forward but it will also attract further global attention to the sport in the country, feels former England defender Russell Osman.
Indian Super League (ISL) champions ATK and I-League winners Mohun Bagan had announced in January that they would merge into one entity that would compete in the ISL from 2020-21 season slated to start in the third week of November.
ATK Mohun Bagan Pvt. Ltd. announced, in a press release last Friday, that their board had unanimously decided to retain the iconic green and maroon jersey which has been synonymous with the 131 years legacy of Mohun Bagan. The name of the club will be changed to ATK Mohun Bagan while the logo will have the Mohun Bagan boat with the addition of ‘ATK’ to it.
“From everybody’s point of view, this is a very positive move. For the ISL, it can only be a good thing. The history of the club is magnificent, Mohun Bagan,” Osman told IANS in an interview.
“Mohun Bagan has been synonymous with Kolkata. The green and maroon is a unique kit and a lot of people worldwide will have seen and recognized it. For them to actually come together with ATK and the success they have in ISL with three wins to their name…it can only be a good thing,” said the 61-year old who has played for Ipswich Town, Leicester City, Southampton, Bristol City, and Brighton & Hove Albion among other clubs in English football.
Osman, who is now an ISL pundit, added that with the league slated to take place behind closed doors this year, it would be unfortunate for the scores of fans who would be dying to see ATK-Mohun Bagan in action.
“It’s a shame that this season has been delayed. A lot of people wanted to see ATK-Mohun Bagan…their first home game…also playing in empty stadiums is a shame. Every home game would have been a full house. But when you look at the success they have (both), this new club shows how it has been put together. I can only see it being a very very good thing for Indian football. It will help the Indian game worldwide. It is now setting a way for everybody else.”
Last year, City Football Group (CFG) acquired a majority stake in its eighth club, Mumbai City FC. Osman said the ATK-Mohun Bagan marriage will further spread the brand of Indian football across the globe.
“City Football Group have taken Mumbai City so Indian football is going global. So Indian football has attracted their attention. Now, this ATK-Mohun Bagan merger will only take this outlook forward,” he added.
Speaking about FC Goa taking part in the AFC Champions League group stages, with ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC playing in the AFC Cup group stages and play-offs respectively, he said: “I think all the stakeholders, eight clubs originally and now the ten clubs, they all deserve to give themselves a pat on the back.
“Nita Ambani, obviously the chairperson of FSDL, Martin Bain, they are all trying to push the business forward as much as they can. And I think they have got more people on their side than against them now. And you just hope that the momentum that the AFC is injecting, the Champions League position for FC Goa, which they thoroughly deserve because they have been a fantastic team over the last couple of years, keeps going.
“ATK Mohun Bagan will also get to play the AFC Cup, which is great. It is a recognition that things are being done right. If they weren’t being done right, they would not get the places.”