Football in Bengaluru has seen a massive boom in the last decade with many clubs being founded and academies being made, dedicated to the sport. The success story of Karnataka football started with Bengaluru FC who brought the city's name in the map of Indian football. Since inception, the club from the garden city has won the I-League, ISL and also played the AFC Cup 2016 final as the first Indian club to do so.
During the early days of Bengaluru FC as one of the giants of Indian football, another club by the name of South United FC was formed in the city of Bengaluru, with a vision of providing a base to the youngsters and creating a team, having Indian youth for the future.
The journey of the club has not been that easy for the last few years, as they struggled to get in the top five of the Bengaluru Super Division league last season and also could not qualify for the final round of I-League second division. But they have the vision to make the future of Indian football and believe that they are walking in the right direction.
The Bengaluru-based club has appointed former Manchester City, Chelsea player and former Kerala Blasters manager Terry Phelan as their Technical Director and former Churchill Brother coach Alfred Fernandes as the head coach. The inclusion of Terry, who has played the FIFA World Cup and has been associated with youth football for a long time, has been a masterstroke by the club officials. It proves their intent to contribute something to Indian football.
In an exclusive interview with the International Business Times India, Terry Phelan discusses the plans South United FC have for the future and how Indian football can grow.
Why did you become the Team Director of South United FC?
I love the growth of football culture in India, especially in Bengaluru. The aim of the club attracted me a lot as I love to work with the youth players. I think that it is my niche. This club has the aim to nourish young football players and guide them to the next level so that they can make the country proud.
The infrastructure, facilities, lights available at the South United FC academy is one of the best in India. The academy will hopefully be fully ready soon. I am getting all the things I need to do my work and also the support from the club is encouraging. To set-up an academy is not a child's play it will take time.
We want to do something that Manchester United did by making local players heroes. It will take 5-10 years but we will achieve it.
You have been associated with Indian grassroot football for some time, where do you think we stand if compared with the European grassroot structure?
Ans: When I first came to India, it was a struggle but now it is getting better. More and more academies are growing and they are well-equipped with the facilities. There are many leagues for the youth to play now and many more will be added.
Most important thing is that the youth are getting attracted to the game due to the exposure they are getting nowadays. So, they are nurturing that passion to make it big in this sport. Its getting better day by day in India.
South United FC's performance last season was not up to the mark. With the inclusion of you as the TD, where do you see the club stand at the end of the next season?
Ans: I am an optimist, we have got a young and talented team at hand. The average age of our team is 25 years. We are building the team looking at the successes we can get in future and not now. We want to be boys who play like men.
This process takes time, clubs like Manchester United did not start winning trophies overnight. They had the vision and gradually went there. A team can win a trophy now with 30-year-olds but the future of the club remains uncertain.
What Bengaluru FC have done by sending their young second team in the Durand Cup is simply brilliant. It needs to be like this if you look at the bigger picture ahead, the colts got the exposure and this helps in the development of young talent.
You will see the success the youngsters achieve in future. Other Indian clubs also need to do the same, they should play their junior teams more often in the less important tournaments so that they can develop and assure the future of the club. I believe in this and South United will gradually reach the stars.
The football in Bengaluru has been growing day by day and the approach and the vision with which clubs like South United FC are moving forward will definitely benefit Indian football as a whole. The garden city will become the new Mecca of football in India.