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‘We want to be up there with the best in the ProKabaddi, football leagues’

Mustafa Ghouse, CEO of Team Haryana Steelers, was one of the speakers at Vivo ProKabaddi 2017 conclave ahead of season five. He explains the factors which convinced the JSW Sports Private Limited to buy a kabaddi franchise, one of four new entrants in the sport.

Earlier this month, the group also successfully bid for a Bengaluru-based football franchise in the Indian Super League. Ghouse, also CEO of JSW Sports Private Limited, spoke about the logic behind the interest showed by a corporate group in ProKabaddi League and football league and the challenges in team building ahead. Excerpts:

On research done before stepping into ProKabaddi

We did our share of homework. Initially, the excitement was about the way kabaddi had evolved and the way the package had caught everyone’s attention. This was the kabaddi in a new avatar. Our recollection of the sport was in the days when it was played in mud and in maidans. To see this type of look to kabaddi was exciting. Popularity among fans and television viewers also excited us, from a sport perspective and from the potential of being commercially viable. When the opportunity came to bid for a team, we were quite keen.

On reaction now when JSW Group is part of the event

We were keen on Haryana, for many reasons. It is the home State of the Jindal family who felt it was a nice connect to have. Kabaddi is massively popular over there. It is like the home State for the sport. Haryana was our No. 1 pick and we were lucky to get there.

On similarities, if any, between ProKabaddi and Indian Super League

Both kabaddi and football are growing very fast and we want to be up there with the best in the league. PK and ISL are very different leagues. One is more India-centric. The talent is here and the cream of the crop comes from our country. ISL is a different structure and evolving. Football as a sport is still growing in India and has immediate comparison with international football. It is a task which will always remain (for those involved).

On television coverage as the reason for kabaddi and football growth in India also corporate interest

Television is a huge factor. It is not the only reason we were in football far before the opportunity of being on Star Sports came up. We always wanted to be in a football league of a longer duration and for the opportunity to the winning team to compete in Asia. When the opportunity arose, we wanted to be there.

On adjusting to ProKabaddi’s caravan format, along with ISL’s home and away matches

We have to adjust. We have never been before in a caravan format (all 12 kabaddi squads travel to one city for matches). Football home and away format we are more aware of. That is how it is done internationally as well. The operations team will need to be aware of nuances of both and adjust.

On competing in ProKabaddi with new team formations at each franchise

We are at an advantage in kabaddi in rebuilding, because of the new teams in each camp. In other aspects, we don’t have the knowledge of players to the exact extent like those teams already playing. Personal relationship with players is also not there (compared to opponents), something we need to work on this season. We will use our Bengaluru FC (BFC) experience.

On the challenge of starting with a clean slate in ISL, with most of contracted BFC players going into the domestic draft

With ISL, it is rebuilding time also at BFC, based on the outcome at the draft. We were aware of this when bidding for a team (ISL). It is difficult, tough, but has to be done. The head coach (Albert Roca) and assistant coach remain the same from the earlier set-up.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 5:43:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/we-want-to-be-up-there-with-the-best-in-the-prokabaddi-football-leagues/article19174465.ece

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