Sourav Ganguly, like most sports people in Bengal, is as passionate about football as he is about cricket. Co-owning the Kolkata franchise in the Indian Super League, he believes, is only the first step in taking the sport to the next level in the country.
The ISL football tournament is scheduled from September to November this year, and with hardly any time in hand, the Kolkata franchise will have a lot of work to do considering the facilities at Salt Lake Stadium - their most likely venue.
"Improving infrastructure in such a short time is a challenge," Ganguly told reporters. "So we have to try and make the best of what's available. When I and Sachin [Tendulkar] started playing cricket, we used to play most of the matches on matting wickets. Yet, those facilities have produced some of the greatest."
Tendulkar and Ganguly, though fighting the same cause of football's growth, will be on opposite sides competing with each other in the ISL. Tendulkar is the co-owner of the Kochi franchise along with PVP Ventures while Ganguly is partner with industrialists Sanjiv Goenka, Harshvardhan Neotia, financial expert Utsav Parekh and La Liga team Atletico Madrid.
"We are now on opposite sides of the sideline," Ganguly told ABP Ananda, a television channel on Monday. "I have to teach him football. He doesn't play football that well," the former India captain added with a smile. "The way he puts bat to ball, he doesn't have that much control over football. Now he has to pick up the nuances of soccer to compete with the Kolkata franchise."
Ganguly said that unlike cricket, the support that football gets from corporates has been quite low in India. Hence, when a global team like Atletico Madrid jumps up to back Indian football there must be something that is going right.
"You have to accept that they are one of the best football teams in the world," Ganguly told media personnel. "We have to accept that if they become part of the Indian football, the sport will be benefited in the end.
"When a young footballer sees Atletico being the number one team in the La Liga and Spain being the current holders of the World Cup, they will be benefited. Everyone is benefited. It's a good sign for us that [one of] the best sides in the world have shown so much interest in this franchise. I always say the sport has to take over at the end of the day."
The teams, the jerseys, and all details concerning the franchise have to be finalised within a month's time when Atletico officials arrive on 6 May.