KBFC director Nikhil on the closure of the women’s team | Top Vip News


“Looking back, maybe we would handle it differently,” is a phrase many people find themselves saying at some point in their lives. For Nikhil Bhardwaj, director of Kerala Blasters, this sentiment stems from the way the club closed down its women’s team.

The ISL Kerala Blasters women’s team was created in July 2022. Still, exactly 11 months later, the club closed the operation, citing financial constraints arising from a fine the men’s team incurred for abandoning a playoff match of the ISL. This announcement caused outrage and the footballers also expressed their anger.

“Why should the women’s team suffer for the actions of the men’s team?” was the question they predominantly asked. He brought bad press to the KBFC management and the club’s owner, Magnum Sports Private Limited.

“From our perspective, this was probably the simplest explanation compared to anything you could explain in a one-on-one conversation where we have a back-and-forth,” Nikhil told The Bridge in an exclusive interview.

“While we anticipated a negative reaction to the announcement, we did not expect it to be so significant. However, we also believe that this situation should never have occurred due to a strike. It is very unfortunate, but from our perspective, that was the one tangible reason why which we feel comfortable disclosing without going into further details,” he added.

“But other important factors caused the closure of the women’s team. In January last year, or early December, we found out that we would not be part of the men’s academy project we were working on in Trivandrum. It was surprising because the club has existed for ten years in the state and contributed enormously to the development of grassroots football. This news prompted us to reconsider our approach with the women’s team, which started from scratch with the promise of a professional setup and a platform to showcase local talent. But these plans are of no importance if we cannot even give them a chance to train on a suitable ground, amidst many other problems at the grassroots level,” Nikhil explained.

The club initially considered moving the women’s facility from Kochi to another city, but logistical hurdles, especially those related to the relocation of young players, made this unfeasible.

“The first option was not to stop the operation, but to consider moving out of Kochi, perhaps to Hyderabad,” he revealed.

“However, expecting players to move out of the state did not seem feasible and did not fit our vision of having an all-Women’s team from Kerala,” he added.

“So, we felt that taking a break was a better option, restarting with the right vision and focus. Some may argue that it’s just about money, but it’s not just about floating a team on a minimal budget. We invested certain amounts in the first year with the intention of improving in subsequent years. There were clear plans for stays abroad similar to what we are doing with young people on the reserves. Unfortunately, there were many uncertainties after the strike, including income, which aggravated the situation and we decided to take a temporary break,” Nikhil explained.

Nikhil also argued that the pause in the functioning of the women’s team is only temporary, but could not determine the timing of the team’s return to the Indian women’s football ecosystem.

“Taking a pause doesn’t mean giving up; it’s about restarting. I can’t say when we will resume, but I hope it aligns with the establishment of our own academy. That way, we are not dependent on anyone else. “Unfortunately, there has been no Lots of interactions between the men’s and women’s teams. We did what we could, but ultimately, we want everyone to feel a part of Kerala Blasters Football Club, regardless of gender,” Nikhil said.

Speaking about setting up an independent academy, Nikhil said: “The next step in our plans involves establishing our own youth organization. While I am hesitant to set a definitive timeline, we are looking at somewhere between the next twelve to eighteen months. This facility would serve as a hub. central, would host training sessions for the first team and would extend to the under-10s.”

Mohammed Aimen and Azhar with KBFC coach Ivan Vukomanovic

Nikhil, however, lamented the lack of support from the state.

“While we are incredibly grateful for all the government support to date, there is always room for further collaboration. Since the inception of KBFC, more than 50,000 jobs have been created, directly or indirectly, so there is a need to give more emphasis that KBFC is Kerala’s team and KBFC can play a much bigger role in the development of the community,” he commented.

For its part, KBFC is actively involved in development work in the state. “We are actively working with many schools, local turf owners and local academies to improve the grassroots ecosystem, talent pipeline and coach education so that the next generations can benefit. On our own, we can’t do much. It is necessary that there be a collective effort to grow more and faster,” he emphasized.

Title dreams and more

For a club that used to consistently finish in the bottom half of the table three years ago, Kerala Blasters’ immediate objective over the next few seasons is to consistently maintain a top-four position in the league, with the ultimate goal of winning. title.

“The minimum expectation is to be in the top four consistently. We don’t want to be a club that never falls below. We want to be at the top every year. So these are immediate short-term goals. I would say, look, a title is way up there in terms of importance. This summer’s investment has allowed us to establish the core structure of our team. There were many exits, but also many entrances. And sometimes that is a good thing because you need to replace not only the quality of the players but also the mentality of the players,” Nikhil said.

“I know the fans have been incredibly patient, but don’t let impatience define your opinions on what the club is doing because it’s a matter of time before the title arrives. Keep asking the management and us questions.” “We’re here to keep communication open. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, we’ll be celebrating that much-desired trophy,” he added.

With up to 17 different injuries this season, it was the young academy players who stepped up to carry the club on their shoulders. But Nikhil feels it is also a period of slow adaptation.

“Normally, when a young player is coming up, there is a period of adaptation. There is a phase where he plays very bravely, but there is also a period where you have to take care of him and take care of him because he will experience various thoughts, especially after a poor performance. and are introduced to social networks for the first time,” he said.

Sustainability over success?

Kerala Blasters have always been under the knife due to the ‘sustainability over success’ policy adopted by the club, but Nikhil does not agree with that view. “I think the idea of ​​sustainability is misunderstood to mean that we’re trying to save money. That’s not true. Because in the summer window, for example, we may not have been the biggest spenders, but we spent reasonably a lot, it’s happening now. because we are doing enough planning and we are building a strategy that focuses on player transfer income. Every player has a kind of schedule. We absolutely back our players to the core when we believe they are absolutely committed to the team. But in “The moment we feel commitment flagging, then we are equally dispassionate.”

This summer has been especially tough for the Kerala Blasters faithful with their local boy Sahal Abdul Samad leaving the club for Mohun Bagan, some of the departures are crucial for the team to stay on top.

“If tomorrow a player feels that he is going to receive a better offer, he will not hesitate to come and tell us. So we also want to think about it in the same way. But also in that process, because a club invests in you.” , we also want to benefit from it. So player transfers are one aspect, but that doesn’t mean that we are simply in the process of selling all the players after each successful year, it is done with a certain amount of planning, that is why we have been able to consistently be among the best teams for three years,” he added.

Gain ratio

The Kochi-based ISL team is also one of the clubs that benefits from the league’s sponsors. But according to Nikhil that has not been easy.

“The type of sponsors we had five or six years ago were all regional. Today we have national and even international sponsors, which means the growth of our brand. It was a conscious decision to start holding the preseason in Dubai because, “We have a base of fans there, as well as in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are also part of our plans for the future. But it also appeals to a different market. Different types of brands realize and might think that between the UAE and India they have common interests. That’s really been the reason we’ve been able to attract more international brands as well,” he added.

However, not having consistent attendance at home games is a problem. “From a stadium point of view, we don’t make money even when we host games; we are losing more money than we make from a ticket sales perspective. We are not yet in a mature market where that can happen. But despite being ahead of all other ISL teams in terms of revenue, it is still a huge waste of money,” said Nikhil.

There have been allegations that the club is investing profits in its sister club, Tamil Thalaivas of the Pro Kabaddi League.

Nikhil categorically denied that allegation.

“We are a family-funded club, unlike other clubs that are backed by big corporations. We make no profit or money in sports. Everything we do comes from a passion for grassroots development. Also in Tamil Thalaivas, our approach is exactly the same: it’s not like we’re doing something here and then lying about things there and doing something different there.

Over the past three years, the vision has been exactly the same. It’s about supporting young people, creating players for national teams and starting from scratch. Also with the Gopichand Nimmagadda Foundation Badminton Academy we were supporting badminton at a time when no one was doing so.

It took us many years to win our first Olympic medal, but today you can see the impact it has created. The number of people who sign up to practice this sport and the number of academies that have opened throughout the country since then. We do what we do because there is a strong passion and commitment to contribute to the sports ecosystem in India,” he added.

The 27-year-old, however, is optimistic about his club’s revenue prospects.

“I hope that, sooner rather than later, the day comes when we are also making money in this sport. And then you see, we are not focused on generating profits or taking them home. The moment “If that happens, we are even more incentivized to return and develop other things that can ultimately benefit this ecosystem,” Nikhil said.

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