Odisha FC not interested in tie up with East Bengal, says club owner

Contrary to reports, Odisha FC owner Rohan Sharma has clarified that his club has no interest in tying up with I-League giant East Bengal.

Odisha FC came into existence after the re-branding of Delhi Dynamos FC which then shifted base to Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.   -  Odisha FC

Indian Super League (ISL) side Odisha FC owner Rohan Sharma, on Thursday, refuted rumours of a possible tie-up with I-League giant East Bengal.

Last month, the RPSG Group, principal owner of ISL club ATK, acquired majority stake in the country’s oldest club, Mohun Bagan, which will go with a merged team in the next ISL season.

With East Bengal’s investors, Quess Corporation, set to snap its ties with the club by May 31, there were talks of an ATK-like merger of East Bengal with neighbouring state’s Odisha FC.

RELATED| Mohun Bagan, ATK announce merger; to play ISL next season

However, Sharma says Odisha FC has no interest in a tie-up. “Not at all. Not even close (to a deal) because Odisha and Kolkata have always been arch-rivals. (There cannot be one team between the two cities). It’s always an Odisha-versus-Kolkata (Bengal) kind of a thing,” Sharma told PTI from Bhubaneswar, on the eve of Odisha FC's home match against North East United FC.

He added: “We have no interest. There’s absolutely no truth to it. I’ve absolutely zero interest in East Bengal. We just got a team, we don’t want to revamp anymore.”

Sharma said there was never any conversation with East Bengal on any matter related to merger: “(Former chief technical officer of Delhi Dynamos) Tathagatha Mukherjee (who is the sports director of East Bengal) has been the only connection between the two clubs. I don’t know from where did the rumours crop up.”

There already have been mixed reactions to ATK-Mohun Bagan merger with critics saying the identity of the century-old club will get diminished as fans are also confused about their jersey and logo.

RELATED| Mohun Bagan, ATK merger evokes mixed reactions from former Bagan players

Sharma said the Sanjiv Goenka-owned ATK would go through a tough time to strike a balance in their merger with Mohun Bagan.

“You know how much ATK going to go through for that. It’s going to be a very delicate balance of merging a team with a lot of history. ATK have won the title twice but Mohun Bagan is one of the historical clubs of India. It will be very hard to keep both fans happy. I don’t want to do that with my team.

“I’m happy being Odisha FC for the people of Odisha. I don’t want to change it by adding another club. Want to make this club ‘for the people, of the people, by the people’ of Odisha kind of thing.”

Talking about the ISL, he said: “It’s good that the league is growing. Now you have an AFC Champions League berth. It’s good to see more matches, focus on having an European-like league. Having more I-League clubs obviously helps.”

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He added: “I would like to see a two-tier system with promotion and relegation like the basic club leagues all the world have. We are starting on the path. Hopefully, in the next two years, I think we’ll have a proper two tier system where.”

Owned by USA-based ship recycling company GMS Leadership, Odisha FC came into existence after the re-branding of Delhi Dynamos FC which then shifted base to Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

Sharma, 27, said the club would like to replicate a Mohun Bagan-like legacy with Odisha FC and not just be like any other ISL franchise. In less than one-year of shifting base, Odisha FC has already finalised their residential academy which is likely to come up soon. Sharma added that the club would like to kick off an inter-school tournament in the state by next season so as to attract young talent.

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